MLK Was A Grammy Winner
If a pop music star put seven albums on The Billboard 200 chart, had a Hot 100 single, won a Grammy, made the cover of Rolling Stone, and inspired several well-known tribute songs, you’d say he had a big-time career. It may surprise you to learn that Dr. Martin Luther King achieved all these milestones of pop success.
Dr. King landed his first chart album in October 1963, two months after he led the historic March on Washington. He landed his seventh in June 1968, two months after he was assassinated in Memphis. Only one public official, President John F. Kennedy, has made the chart with more than seven albums. JFK amassed 10 charted albums, all after his assassination in 1963.
Dr. King’s first charted album, The Great March To Freedom, was recorded at a speech he gave in Detroit in June 1963. The album was released on Gordy Records, the namesake label of Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr.
Dr. King received his first Grammy nomination in early 1964 for We Shall Overcome (The March On Washington…August 28, 1963). The album was nominated for Best Documentary, Spoken Word or Drama Recording (Other Than Comedy). The album featured, in addition to King and other civil rights and religious leaders, tracks by Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary, Odetta and Marian Anderson.
King made his biggest chart impact in the weeks after he was assassinated on April 4, 1968. A spoken-word single, “I Have A Dream,” became a Hot 100 hit in May 1968. (The B side was a recording of the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.”)
An album titled I Have A Dream, which was recorded at the March on Washington, made the upper half of the album chart in May 1968. The following year, it brought King a second Grammy nomination for Best Spoken Word Recording.