My favorite songs: “King Holiday”

As the story goes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s son Dexter Scott King called Kurtis Blow, and asked him to make a record celebrating the legacy of his father, and the (then-)forthcoming national holiday for him, which was first celebrated in 1986. Blow then assembled the King Dream Chorus and Holiday Crew, consisting of a lot of the premier R&B singers and rappers of the moment: El DeBarge, a very-early-in-her-career Whitney Houston, Stacy Lattisaw, New Edition, Lisa Lisa, “J.T.” Taylor of Kool & the Gang, Stephanie Mills, Teena Marie, and, uh Menudo (yes, Ricky Martin’s on this), along with the Fat Boys, Run-D.M.C., Whodini, and Grandmaster Melle Mel. This wasn’t “We Are the World”; this was a black record, not a pop record, and is the better for its laser focus. Blow’s production positively sparkles — he knew what was on the line here, such as it was — and the lyrics pay tribute to Dr. King in a way that’s positive without being overly cheesy (a tricky needle to thread with tribute records such as this). Appallingly, this only made it to #30 on the R&B singles chart (and unsurprisingly didn’t make the Hot 100) — even with a video paid for by Prince, which got heavy rotation at the time on BET. 30+ years later, the song is still great, however, and still resonates. “Sing! Sing! Celebrate!” indeed.


About thomasinskeep

I write about music.
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