The celebration of Martin Luther King day serves also as a reminder that America has produced other kings who have changed the world for the better. Civil rights and music are two contributions that have given the United States a unique place in the hearts of many, regardless of native language or culture.
This is perhaps a good thing to reflect upon during this time of America’s testing in Iraq and the unsettling effect it continues to have on the American image abroad. Its reminder is all the more timely given that almost each day seems to bring more troubling stories about another new instance of domestic surveillance and with it a further incursion into the privacy of citizens.
The forces that liberate the soul and allow people to be treated with dignity and respect still remain music to the ears of countless millions –and to most Americans themselves. This was something Dr. King uniquely understood and gave such eloquent voice to. The other kings provided the melody in their own equally distinct fashions.
For more youthful readers, the fellow in the middle photo is Benny Goodman, known in his time as “the king of swing.” Benny was a pioneer of civil rights in the music industry, showcasing many African Americans who were shunned by other top bands, including a young Lionel Hampton. In the 1930s, the Benny Goodman trio and quartet were among the first racially integrated jazz groups to record and play before wide audiences. Take it from a one-time aspiring jazz musician, this cat played one cool stick. He was a favorite of both Dr. King and Elvis for the “content of his character” as well as the quality of his talent.