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  • Writer's picturePeter Markes

Behind the Music: I Have a Dream

Updated: May 27

When I left classroom teaching in May of 2017, I was given a gift inscribed, "You made a difference! Pursue your dreams!" Earlier that spring, I had begun writing music again for the first time in fifteen years, and now I was in search of subjects to write about. This subject of "dreams" turned me toward Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s historic "Dream Speech" from 1963. On the heels of the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, North Carolina, this re-reading was saddening for me because over half a century later, so much of it still rings true. It was also transformative and I recommend you read it soon.

The original title, "I've got a dream," opens the song and is a message to myself - simply that I must get out there and start working. This idea was inspired by a quote taped to my computer, "There is no such thing as a good or bad artist...only hard-working or lazy." The remainder of the lyrics are largely King inspired. The second verse is my favorite and most spiritual, with the central idea that we must believe in change and follow the positive footsteps of those who began the process before us.

The arrangement of the song is still up in the air, even after producing and releasing my own recording. I still envision a powerful African-American voice, man or woman, singing the song in a slower, blues feel. I am most grateful to the King Estate out of Atlanta for permission to sample the audio from Dr. King's speech. This idea has been there from the first demo recording and continues to be surprisingly emotional each time I listen.

The gift - a caricature of me in my office - with the inspirational inscription.

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