Composed by jazz pianist Billy Taylor, this song was originally an instrumental called “I Wish I Knew”. Taylor recorded it in November 1963 with Grady Tate on drums, Ben Tucker on bass, and a horn section. He also wrote the first verse of lyrics, then collaborated with Dick Dallas on the rest. Ms. Simone recorded the song, now retitled as “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” for her 1967 album Silk & Soul. She performs it here at Montreux ‘76.
From The Woody Guthrie All-Star Tribute Concert (1970).
I know that this may seem like an easy out for the video of the day, but I'd never really listened to this speech. On the day that most* of us take off from work to celebrate the birth of MLK, I think it's only right to listen to his words, and to examine our relationship to injustice and prejudice. Today is a day to reflect, and a day to challenge long held beliefs, in an effort to effect positive change in our world through nonviolent intervention.
Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
If only we could all find a way to channel our feelings of injustice, of inequity, into such a positive, non-violent action for change.
*I work for an institution that believes MLK day isn't actually a holiday. I'm afforded two days off for Mardi Gras. Draw your own conclusions.