“I’m singin ’bout a king”

How to write a musical obituary: work fast, and let sorrow and rage carry you through. Martin Luther King was killed on April 4; this was debuted (in a 15-minute version) at a festival in Long Island on April 7. In that tense historical moment, with riots raging in 110 cities, Simone’s question: “What’s gonna happen now that the king of love is dead?” had real and terrifying force. It can be hard to apprehend how much was it stake, how much worse it could have been, but this song makes it palpable.

And this, with a video which doubles as a potted history of the civil rights movement, was Public Enemy’s response to Arizona voters’ persistent refusal to recognise Martin Luther King, Jr Day (even though Governor Fife Symington III supported it). I love this song to bits, but given recent events, it is very strange to hear such a thrilling record about going to Arizona to assassinate an elected official.

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