| Lists |

Top Eight Freedom Songs For MLK Day

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

Rocks Off sincerely prays that those of you with today off are at least peripherally aware of why you have today off. For our annual MLK Day reflection this year, we thought we'd leave the songs about Dr. King to Bono, and instead share a few of our favorite songs that set his dream to music in one way, shape, form or another.

Rocks Off may not be free at last, but we're sure trying. Before you judge us too harshly, please remember these came straight off the top of our head. Thank God Almighty.

8. Patty Griffin, "Up To the Mountain (MLK Song)": Because Rocks Off swore that any time we posted something about Dr. King, we would include this stirring, nearly a cappella song from 2007's Children Running Through. We'd hate to go back on our word, and besides, "Mountain" is also a dead-on telegraph for the red-haired Austin songbird's gritty 2010 gospel LP Downtown Church.

7. Staple Singers, "Freedom Highway": A bit of a rarity here, in that the Staples' freedom highway is the Chicago family's clapping and stomping 1965 account of the same road traveled by Dr. King and so many others during the Civil Rights Era. Always socially on point, Roebuck, Mavis and the rest of the Staples crew have converted many a nonbeliever.

6. Soup Dragons, "I'm Free": Pasty UK bands have been mining reggae and dub for their own alternative purposes since at least the Clash, and Scotsmen the Soup Dragons were doing it in fine rude-boy style in 1990. A bit of a precursor to the wide-eyed dance-pop that would soon follow from the likes of Jesus Jones, Ned's Atomic Dustbin and the Shamen as well.

5. George Michael, "Freedom '90": Also from 1990, George Michael's ultra-slick ode to bein' free - with the year appended to prevent confusion with Wham!'s 1984 hit "Freedom" - missed out on being the year's being the year's biggest dance-club sensation because of two words: Madonna's "Vogue."

4. Aretha Franklin, "Think": The Queen of Soul's 1968 hit espouses a dream of a different kind: That the (presumably trifling) man she is addressing get his act together PDQ. Although it's been since used to sell everything from panty hose to cut-rate bulk merchandise at Big/Lots, it's hard not to feel a little empowered when 'Retha belts out "Freedom!" in the chorus. (Over and over and over again.) In any given year, "Think" has about a 50 percent chance of being butchered by one American Idol hopeful or another.

3. Merle Haggard, "Okie from Muskogee": Because Merle believes in "livin' right and bein free." So did Dr. King, and so do we.

2. Team America, "Freedom Isn't Free": Yes, this Trey Parker-penned tune from Team America: World Police is a take-off on boot-in-the-ass Toby Keith-type flag-waving country, but only up to a point, and not nearly as tongue-in-cheek as the better-known "America (Fuck Yeah!)." Lyrics like "'Cause the only reason that you're here/ Is 'cause folks died for you in the past/ So maybe now it's your turn to die kicking some ass" may raise a chuckle or two, but deep down they're no joke.

1. Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Free Bird": Those of you who would scoff at our including this song, and this band, Rocks Off kindly points you toward "The Ballad of Curtis Loew" on 1974's Second Helping. Now tell us Ronnie Van Zant and crew were racist.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.