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Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. in Song

In the Name of Love

It's no great revelation to say that Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day, coming as it does 24 hours before Barack Obama's inauguration, will be the most-celebrated MLK Day to date. Musically, we all know U2's anthemic if factually incorrect "Pride (In the Name of Love)" — King was assassinated at 6 p.m., not "early morning," Bono — Dion's wistful "Abraham, Martin, and John" and Stevie Wonder's jubilant "Happy Birthday," but Chatter did some digging and came up with a few more songs that honor the fallen civil rights icon.

U2, "MLK": Bono's mid-'80s fascination with Dr. King didn't stop at "Pride." Stately and serene, this synth-driven directive to "sleep tonight" anchors the hymn-like album-closer trilogy of War's "40" and The Joshua Tree's "Mothers of the Disappeared." (The Unforgettable Fire, 1984)

Bruce Springsteen, "Workin' on a Dream": Inspired by both King and Obama, the subdued title track to the Boss's forthcoming album reminds us it takes hard labor to get to the promised land: "My hands are rough from workin' on a dream." Ironically, amid Big Man Clarence Clemons's simmering sax and a sinewy Motown bassline, the most optimistic part of the arrangement is the background la-la-la-las lifted straight from Elton John's "Sad Songs Say So Much." (Workin' on a Dream, 2009, due January 27)

Patty Griffin, "Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)": Paraphrases King's final speech to craft a riveting meditation on perseverance, and unwittingly predicts this year's 401(k) implosion: "Sometimes I feel like I never been nothing but tired / And I'll be working 'til the day I expire." Unless you have no soul, the gospel piano and tasteful strings will tear your heart to shreds — but in an uplifting way. (Children Running Through, 2007)

Old Crow Medicine Show, "Motel in Memphis": Nashville-based bluegrass brigands spill "blood on the riverside" on this haunting, evocative track that sounds like a lost Hank Williams Sr. song: "If you were there you'd swear it was more than a man who died." (Tennessee Pusher, 2008)

Public Enemy, "By the Time I Get to Arizona": The same state that gave us Barry Goldwater, the Meat Puppets and John McCain was the next-to-last to recognize King's birthday as an official holiday (hello, South Carolina!), which cost Phoenix the 1993 Super Bowl. Needless to say, Chuck D was pissed: "I'm on the one mission / To get a politician / To honor or he's a goner." (Apocalypse '91... The Enemy Strikes Black, 1991)

NEWS FEED

RodeoHouston announced the remainder of its 2009 concert calendar Monday: Clay Walker (March 5); Gladys Knight and Solange (March 6, Black Heritage Day); Trace Adkins (March 7); Lady Antebellum (March 9); Toby Keith (March 10); Clint Black (March 13); Josh Turner (March 14); Ramon Ayala and Alacranes Musical (March 15, Go Tejano Day); Darius Rucker (March 16); Keith Urban (March 17); Pat Green (March 19); Brooks & Dunn (March 21); and ZZ Top (March 22). See www.rodeohouston.com for ticket information...Houston's generally awful commercial radio airwaves improved, if only for a few hours each day, with last Monday's debut of "Classic Cool" at 650 AM. Talk radio the rest of the day, Classic Cool spins standards by vintage artists (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald) and their contemporary counterparts (Michael Bublé, Diana Krall) from 4 p.m. to sunset, when the daytime-only station signs off.

LOCAL MOTION

Top Sellers
Sig's Lagoon
3710 Main, 713-533-9525

1. The Gourds, Haymaker!

2. Various Artists, Bachata Roja: Acoustic Bachata from the Cabaret Era

3. Various Artists, R. Crumb Presents Hot Women

4. Kings of Leon, Only by the Night

5. Various Artists, Kickin' Hitler's Butt: Vintage Anti-Fascist Songs 1940-1944

6. Various Artists, Tamburitza: Hot Strings from the Balkans to America

7. Various Artists, Texas Funk: Black Gold from the Lone Star State

8. Smokey Johnson, It Ain't My Fault

9. DJ Bonebrake Trio, The Other Side

10. Various Artists, Never Ever Land

AIRWAVES

The Weave
KPFT (90.1 FM), Mondays 2-3 p.m.
DJ Mike Savas's January 5 playlist

1. Vampire Weekend, "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"

2. Lucinda Williams, "Real Love"

3. Death Cab for Cutie, "I Will Possess Your Heart"

4. Fleet Foxes, "White Winter Hymnal"

5. Beck, "Youthless"

6. Coldplay, "Violet Hill"

7. Amos Lee, "Listen"

8. Ray LaMontagne, "You Are the Best Thing"

9. Alejandro Escovedo, "Always a Friend"

10. Duffy, "Mercy"

(lists compiled by Chris Gray)

 
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