via Sonotheque Sound Gallery
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day isn't just a federal Holiday, but a time to celebrate the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and recognize the challenges our nation still faces today when it comes to race. So kick back and listen to some of the best songs that remind us of how far we've come, while still acknowledging we have a long way to go.
Public Enemy, "Fight the Power"
With scathing commentary on America's injustices and calling American icon Elvis a racist, Chuck D and hype man Flavor Flav rap a message of inequality.
Marvin Gaye, "What's Going On"
Renowned for his smooth, sexy R&B classics, Marvin Gaye trades in sex appeal for emotional appeal on "What's Going On," a song about police brutality during a time of racial tension and the Vietnam War.
Sam Cooke, "A Change is Gonna Come"
With enough soul to wake the dead, Sam Cooke's civil rights anthem still rings poignantly to this very day.
Billie Holiday, "Strange Fruit"
The Haunting early protest Ballad "Strange Fruit" written for jazz songstress Billie Holiday is a protest song against lynching in the south before the civil rights movement hit its peak.
N.W.A., "Fuck Tha Police"
A song that can duel as an epic revolt against police brutality or a soundtrack to high speed chases, "Fuck Tha Police" is a classic of the '80s rap Renaissance.
Aretha Franklin, "Respect"
Although "Respect" is seemingly about a complicated relationship, its release in the heavy political climate of the late 1960s made the song take on a whole new meaning.
Bad Brains, "Banned in D.C."
Emerging as the forefront of the Afro-punk scene when punk was mostly white musicians and followers of the Rastafarian way of life, Bad Brains' "Banned in D.C." speaks volumes.
Stevie Wonder, "Living in the City"
A tale of a boy from a small southern town moving to New York City to be unjustly taken advantage of and thrown into jail, Stevie Wonder exposes the injustices of being a person of color in a big city.
Bob Marley and the Wailers, "Get Up, Stand Up"
With the repetition of "don't give up the fight," Bob Marley drives the point home for not just racial inequality, but for all injustices that have been plaguing society.
James Brown, "Say it Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud"
James Brown celebrates his heritage along with a demand for equality, cementing himself as the irreplaceable "Godfather of Soul."