Underplayed Vinyl used to be a regular – monthly or so – feature of this blog until it somehow got waylaid. Part of it was not having a usable turntable, but that has since been rectified. The idea about Underplayed Vinyl is to talk about an album I own, but only an LP or 45 (or I suppose, a 78) that I own that I do not possess in digital form (CD or download).
Since it’s Martin Luther King’s birthday, the Monday holiday law notwithstanding, I thought I’d talk about an album of a couple of his speeches, plus an excerpt of his most famous address, Free at Last.
The album was issued 1968 on Gordy/Motown Records. Side 1 was the DRUM MAJOR INSTINCT SERMON, given at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on February 4, 1968. You can read it here, but of course, you don’t get the elocution, the nuances of the voice. The sermon included Dr. King’s desired eulogy, part of which reads:
If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. (Yes) And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school. (Yes)
I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. (Yes)
I’d like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. (Amen)
I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. (Yes)
And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. (Yes)
I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. (Lord)
I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity. (Yes)
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. (Amen) Say that I was a drum major for peace. (Yes) I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. (Yes) I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. (Amen) And that’s all I want to say.
If I can help somebody as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,
If I can show somebody he’s traveling wrong,
Then my living will not be in vain.
If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,
If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,
If I can spread the message as the master taught,
Then my living will not be in vain.
Side 2 contains I’VE BEEN TO THE MOUNTAIN delivered at the Mason Temple, the Church of God in Christ Headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968, the day before he died. That speech can be seen and heard here.
One of my favorite parts is after he was stabbed by a woman in Harlem, he got this letter from a girl in high school, which he read:
While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.
But the payoff of the address is the I’ve Been To The Mountain Top section. It is amazing that not only did it foretell his death, it showed a strong parallel between King and and the Biblical figure Moses:
We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
(Recently, CBS News Sunday Morning did a segment on Moses with Mo Rocca which is found within this document, which links the Liberty bell, the pilgrims, Superman and M.L. King.)
Finally, the album ends with excerpts from the I HAVE A DREAM speech, including the FREE AT LAST segment.
I don’t know exactly when I bought this album, though I’m sure it was before I went to college in 1971. these speeches, along with the Beyond Vietnam speech of April 4, 1967 were pivotal in my philosophical development. Thus, this was quite an important recording for me.