Mahalia Jackson’s “Like the Breeze Blows” combines King’s and Dylan’s themes

It was the “Queen of Gospel,” Mahalia Jackson, whom Dr. King called when he was depressed. She’d sing for him over the phone, and sometimes he’d cry listening to her. During the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, King’s speech wasn’t truly catching fire until Jackson suddenly called out, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” She was referring to a speech he’d given a few months earlier in Detroit, where he imagined a day when black children could go to school and play together with white children. So King pushed his notes aside and started improvising “I Have a Dream” in front of nearly three hundred thousand people, Baptist preacher style. Jackson’s 1965 album Mahalia features “Like the Breeze Blows,” which tied Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” with King’s manifesto—you couldn’t “stop the breeze from blowing” or “stop a dream in the hearts of men from growing,” she sang in her indomitable contralto. Events in Selma, Alabama would soon prove her song to be correct.

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