NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA--
Over 250 thousand dreamers amassed in front of the Lincoln monument, August 28rd, 1963. As the rest of the world attentively tuned in to the black and white television coverage of the March on Washington, the event quickly became the hallmark of the civil rights movement. No public demonstration had ever been so monumental, visual or large. Martin Luther King Jr. was at the height of his power and his heart would be the video projector of the dream inside his head, making it possible for the masses before him to believe in changing a fierce wall of ignorance.
Today, as we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., one local musician, Jeremy Thomas, decided to take up the pen and compose some jazz to honor a king.
Jeremy would take the famous "I have a dream" speech and use the inflections of Martin's sermonic speaking style to make the speech a piece of music, complete with musical movements that correspond to different time periods of Martin Luther King's life; all the while making sure the music would fit under Martin's words and message.
"I'm happy to join with you today as what will go down as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation," was once the prelude to a worldwide master class of public speaking that showed an intelligent man not speaking from his brain but from the pain of living while black in America.
"Well initially, I was just listening to King's address on Washington, 1963. I heard the cadence of which he spoke. I said the music is already there, the rhythm. I took me only a moment to hear. I said that's how that song goes. I started to hear the baseline and harmonies. The way he used his voice melodically, pretty much laid the foundation. All I did was put the music to it," said Jeremy Thomas.
Music and the civil rights movement are not strangers. Song has always been essential to change, from the call and responses of field slaves working, to the many local concerts of black musicians, who donated proceeds to local freedom fighters. In fact, the one woman who spoke at the March on Washington was nonother than, artist Josephine Baker. Martin Luther King himself, like most pastors, had a plan for the direction of his words and like a jazz musician, he possessed an improvisational quality.
"Musicians have a way of hearing messages and conveying those messages," says Jeremy Thomas. 56 years after the March on Washington, Dr. King still inspires. Jeremy was inspired to honor a hero.
Jeremy hopes that his song, simply titled "The March on Washington," will help more people to listen closely to Martin's words.
"One thing that it will be able to do is helping people to listen to the man's words in their entirety. I've sat down with people. I've talked with people about the speech and a lot of times they don't pay attention to the whole thing and they don't really remember what was said. Usually, when you put things to music it's automatic that you will remember it."
To check out Jeremy Thomas's music, including a chance to hear his tribute to the "March On Washington," there will be a concert at the newly opened Southern Rep Theatre, February 10th at 2541 Bayou Rd, New Orleans, LA.