"I Have a Dream"
(Martin Luther King Jr)
On Totally Gourdgeous' album, "Gourd in the Act”, we’ve done a version of Martin Luther King Jr’s speech, “I Have a Dream”. Inspired by the fantastic version made by Robert Davidson (Topology), putting music under the speech to make it singing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R26pEnrCFYw , we were going to use the recording of the original speech in our recording and to change place names in the text to reflect the Australian experience for asylum seekers. But both of those aspects made it impossible to legally clear the track for a commercial release, so we’ve made those versions available here as bonus tracks, while the album version has us singing the speech with the original text.
So, here are the bonus tracks!
As you can hear, our version is painstakingly faithful to the pitch and rhythm of the original speech.
Right clicking on the above links should make it possible to download the track. Email me (mailto:email@example.com) if you'd like me to send you the 24 bit WAV of either or both tracks.
And here's a video clip I made with archival footage, using the version in which Dr. King is singing lead.
Mal Webb's brief history of this arrangement of "I Have a Dream"
I had always been obsessed with taking melodies from natural speech patterns of pitch and rhythm, so I was most inspired when I saw Henry Hey's brilliant piano arrangement of Sarah Palin's interview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nlwwFZdXck and soon after than, MLK (I Have a Dream) by Topology (Robert Davidson), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R26pEnrCFYw as well as their fabulous arrangements of other speeches. Years passed as I dwelled on it until Penelope Swales (of Totally Gourdgeous) suggested that we extend the Topology arrangement to other parts of the speech. We sought the most musical and stand alone sections, that would best flow thematically. Being a lawyer, Penelope was very hard line that we must clear it with the copyright owners (and I'm a stickler for credit where it's due too).
I obtained the "endorsed audio" from the King Foundation and did a few little edits for long applause and vocal stumbles (like "quest for freedom"... might as well lend Dr. King a hand retrospectively!), after that, I did my best to arrange the music as close to the timing of that speech as possible, with subtle tempo changes to allow the groove to sit until the speech like it belonged there. It took ages! I was curious to notice that Robert Davidson's arrangement didn't line up exactly with the "endorsed audio", but I assumed he'd done a few sneaky edits to make the groove sit better, which I totally forgave him for doing! I was also curious why the "endorsed audio" had such varying quality, particularly bad in the "Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom..." section.
In the meantime, I had sent a copyright clearance form to the King Foundation and, despite years of emails and phone calls, never heard nothing back. I'd spoken to people at APRA and AMCOS over those years, trying to work it out, but no one was very sure. It was becoming clear that the copyright of the speech was somewhat in dispute amongst the members of the King family. It was decided that if we call it a straight up cover of "I Have a Dream" by Martin Luther King Jr, and not use the original audio of the speech in our recording, it should be OK.
But Penelope had had the fanstastic idea of changing the place names, in the "Let Freedom ring" section of the speech, to Australian ones, including detention centres for asylum seekers, and it was only when we were finally mixing (and mastering the next week), I was filling out the form for the AMCOS license (which mentioned that changes to lyrics make it a "parody" which definitely needs to be cleared with the original copyright owner) that I remembered we had indeed changed the lyrics! Aarrgghh! So we quickly (and a little sadly) re-recorded those sections to the original placenames.
Then, (during mastering!), I spoke to Peter Fenton at AMCOS and all became clear. The audio of the "I Have a Dream" speech is controlled by Sony/ATV and we had to apply to them. Done!
Although... a week before releasing the single, I started to make a video for our song, lining up the audio with the video of the speech and found that it doesn't line up! Over the decades, different edits of the audio and video have meant the "endorsed audio" we paid for doesn't match the video! All my dediction to the timing of the orginal was kind of for nought. And no wonder the Topology arrangement was slightly different. It was all making sense... dang it! And I even found a version of the "Let us not seek..." with better audio quality. Hrmph! Anyway, it is what it is and I'm hugely proud of it. It's been an amazing process, both legally and artistically. And thanks to Robert Davidson for his glorious arrangement in the first place and his help and support throughout our efforts to expand on it.
I Have a Dream
© Martin Luther King jr
Now is the time, to make real the promises of democracy.
Now is the time, to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
Now is the time, to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
Now is the time, to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.
We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.
Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations.
Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells.
Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom
Left you battered by the storms of persecution, staggered by the winds of police brutality.
You have been the veterans of creative suffering.
'Cos I have a dream, my four little children will one day live in a nation
Where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists
With its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification"
One day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls
Will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls
As sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope
With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation
Into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together
To go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rookies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaeeous slopes of California.
But not only that.
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi
From every mountain side. Let freedom ring…
Australian Version (by Penelope Swales):
And if Australia is to be a great nation, this must become true.
So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of Canberra.
Let freedom ring from the mighty Blue Mountains of Sydney.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Dandenongs of Melbourne.
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped peaks of the Great Divide.
Let freedom ring from the curvaeeous slopes of the Kimberley.
But not only that.
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Manus Island.
Let freedom ring from the dark valley of Dondale.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Nauru
From every mountain side. Let freedom ring…