Jim Bleikamp here.
Nearly 50 years after his death, it surely does seem that the “I Have a Dream” speech is the winner when it comes to the speech by Martin Luther King that is his best known and most-loved.
And not, of course, without substantial reason.
It is inspirational. It is glorious. It soars.
But many who knew Martin and who have studied him intensively are most taken with another set of words from King.
The “Mountaintop” speech–the one he gave to the striking sanitation workers in Memphis. The one in which he foresaw his own end–yes–on the very next day.
“Mountaintop” like “I Have a Dream” in no way lacked for stratospheric words and other-worldly images. But it was also in a way the perfect meeting of Heaven and Earth.
A marriage of the moment and all the time still to come.
The prophet called for boycotts and protests. But he also clung to non-violence and the need for unity.
Decades after the speech left his lips in Memphis, a young songmaker from Old Town, Maine, discovered by an A&M records executive at a coffee house in Boston, made something of a symphony out of “Mountaintop.”
A kind of massive and melodic rolling river.
That somehow seems to beckon us all home.
Moving–in the best sense of motion.
Listen here to Maine’s own Patty Griffin.