MLK Remembrance: Dancing In the Street

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In 1963, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared his dream on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He was assassinated five years later. To remember this great American on his birthday, I present: 

Lyrics by Martha & the Vandellas

Flashback by Don Mathis

Calling out around the world, are you ready for a brand new beat?
Summer’s here and the time is right for dancing in the street.

A disc jockey at a Washington D.C. area radio station
played this record after Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot.

Dancing in Chicago (dancing in the street)
Down in New Orleans (dancing in the street)
In New York City

Cities across the nation were rioting. 

All we need is music, sweet music,
there’ll be music everywhere
there’ll be swinging swaying, and records playing,
dancing in the street

But this music was not cooling people down.

And there was more looting than dancing in the street.
Some people felt this song was inciting a riot. 

Oh it doesn’t matter what you wear, just as long as you are there.
So come on every guy, grab a girl,
everywhere, around the world
there’ll be dancing, they’re dancing in the street.

My best friend who worked in a department store said gun sales were up –
as home and business owners prepared to protect their property. 

This is an invitation, across the nation,
a chance for folks to meet.
There’ll be laughing, singing, and music swinging
Dancing in the street

“This is so nice, I’m going to play it twice,”
the DJ screamed over the airwaves. 

Philadelphia PA, Baltimore and D.C. now,
Can’t forget the Motor City,
All we need is music, sweet music
There’ll be music everywhere
There’ll be swinging swaying, and records playing,
Dancing in the street

D.C. was always a place of protest in the 1960s –
but it was typically spared the ugly violence
as happened often in Detroit, Chicago, and Los Angeles. 

Oh it doesn’t matter what you wear, just as long as you are there.
So come on every guy, grab a girl,
everywhere, around the world
they’re dancing, dancing in the street

Buildings on Georgia Avenue were still smoldering days after King’s death.
King, who just a few years earlier, spoke by the Lincoln Memorial of his dream.
This was not King’s dream.

Way down in L.A., every day they’re dancing in the street
let’s form a big strong line, and get in time,
we’re dancing in the street.

The disc jockey was fired before the record stopped spinning.
Dead air filled the broadcast for several seconds. 

Across the ocean blue, me and you
we’re dancing in the street

Yet, the refrain still played.

###

Don Mathis HeadshotDon Mathis served as president of the Texoma Poetry Society in 2011 (a Sherman member of the Poetry Society of Texas). And in 2010, ‘Dionysus Don’ was crowned champion of the McKinney Poetry Slam. Don is very involved in the poetry community in Bexar County. He is a founding member of the San Antonio Poetry Fair and participates regularly with Sun Poets and La Taza writers’ group. His poetry has been published in anthologies, periodicals and has appeared on local TV and national radio. He currently works for St. Philip’s College.

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