Martin Luther King Jr. Quote on Jazz Documented by Professor David Demsey and Former Student

Music professor David Demsey uncovers origin of Martin Luther King Jr.'s quote on the significance of jazz

David Demsey (left) and Bruce Jackson

The origin of a famous quote on the significance and beauty of jazz attributed to Martin Luther King Jr., his only known commentary on the subject, has been uncovered by David Demsey, William Paterson University professor of music and coordinator of jazz studies, and Bruce Jackson, William Paterson master's degree alumnus and a jazz drummer. The research appears in the January 2011 issue of DownBeat magazine.

The quote is universally misattributed as being from a speech given by King at the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival. Demsey’s and Jackson’s research reveals that King was never actually at the festival, but provided his thoughts on jazz as a foreword for the event’s printed program, at the invitation of the Berlin Festival organizers.

King ended the foreword in the style of his powerful rhetoric, “Everybody has the blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for Faith. In music, especially that broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone to all of these.”