MEMPHIS, TN. Memphis is rich in American history. It was a representation of the divisive morals in a segregated nation during the Civil Rights Movement and a recognized birth place of the American blues music genre. Pam Tillis & Kris Thomas wrote a song titled, Two Kings, which pays tribute to the two men whose greatness is recognized for their contributions to our lives and whose stories converged in Memphis. Ms. Tillis & Mr. Thomas capture their significance in song which I inadequately attempt to capture in a few short words.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel located south of the famed Beale St. It is memorialized there today and is the site of the National Civil Rights Museum. Dr. King’s martyrdom was the turning point in the Civil Rights Movement which graphically proclaimed, regardless of race, all people are created equal.
Elvis Aaron Presley sang about Dr. King’s dream of equality during his unprecedented comeback appropriately known today as the ’68 Comeback Special. Elvis historians explain he was particularly moved by the tragic deaths of Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. Mr. King was assassinated on April 04, 1968 and Kennedy was assassinated June 05, 1968. Elvis began taping his comeback June 20-29. The deaths were still impressed upon the mind of Elvis when he sang If I Can Dream, which he never sang again.
It’s ironic two of the most significant men in 20th century history would die in Memphis and whose contributions to racial equality were as diverse as the color of their skin. Dr. King would purposely pursue his cause by using civil disobedience, massive peaceful demonstrations, and the power of the preacher’s pulpit to change the law. Elvis sang songs blended in rhythm, gospel, and blues without any thought to their origin in black music of slaves and the oppressed people of the South. He just sang what he knew, felt, and saw growing up in the South and thousands screamed at his concerts oblivious about the origins of his style.
Elvis’ contribution was accidental while Dr. King’s was purposeful and significantly more important. The only commonality is when race is not a factor, then people are people and music is music. Check out the video links and remember the significance of the man whom this day honors.