Who better to help us celebrate Martin Luther King Jr's 89th birthday than a band of Irishmen?
Looking back, U2 singer Bono deserves most of the credit for turning a generation of American kids on to the accomplishments of Martin Luther King, Jr., who did not yet have his own stamp, much less a federal holiday.
Would Martin Luther King Jr. be as cool to me if U2 hadn't championed him in much the same way R.E.M.'s Peter Buck once gushed about Velvet Underground? Probably not. In that sense, I'm glad I was in the Bono and Peter Buck camps learning about MLK and VU instead of, say, the Axl Rose camp being told Charlie Manson was just misunderstood, man.
Up until The Unforgettable Fire, listening to U2 was a lot like being preached at by someone who really believed in their cause and wanted you to believe in it as well. The Edge's lacerating guitars added a plaintive, metallic wallop to Bono's anthemic slogans while the rhythm section of Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. brought it all home with a thunderous military precision.
On much of The Unforgettable Fire, specifically "MLK", the band opted for subtlety and atmosphere over bombast and came up with a sound that gave them a new lease on life because, in hindsight, if they'd kept making albums like War, they could very well have ended up like Echo & The Bunnymen, Big Country and The Alarm.
Being a singer, myself, Bono's hauntingly heartfelt tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. was a godsend for me and anyone else who feared finding themselves in a vocal booth staring at a microphone with an engineer eager to set recording levels saying, "Okay, sing something".