Only a handful of artists have the cultural magnetism that enables their work to impact our lives, even beyond their musical comfort zone. It was Stevie Wonder‘s composition and release of ‘Happy Birthday,’ and his tireless campaigning, that led directly to the enshrinement of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, observed in the US for the first time in January 1986 and ever since.
The idea for a national holiday to mark the 15 January birthday of the great civil rights campaigner was building in momentum from soon after Dr. King’s shocking assassination in 1968. Several states enacted holidays on his birthday in the 1970s, includiing Illinois, Connecticut and Massachusetts, but Congress stopped short of passing a national day into law. In November 1979, despite the endorsement of President Jimmy Carter, the King Holiday Bill was defeated by five votes. (more…)