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Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.

And then, in the last few minutes, he changed forever both my life and my perception of music.

He gently placed a record on a phonograph (if you don’t know what this is, ask your parents or grandparents), smiled at the class, and asked: “Based upon everything we have just discussed, is this music?”


After a few seconds, a voice from the scratchy recording said:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”…I have a dream that 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…. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:Free at last! Free at last!Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

I still get a chill every time I think about it. Melody? Check. Rhythm and beat? Check. Structure, texture, pitch, tone? It was all there.

And, today, more than forty years later, whenever I hear that speech, I hear much more than the words, much more than the message.

I hear the music.


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Saul Jay Singer serves as senior legal ethics counsel with the District of Columbia Bar and is a collector of extraordinary original Judaica documents and letters. He welcomes comments at at [email protected].