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“Up to the Mountain (MLK)” and Its Powerful Speech Basis


If you love gospel songs, you’ve probably heard of this tune “Up to the Mountain (MKL).” And, if you’re a Martin Luther King loyalist, you have known what his relationship to the song is. In case you haven’t heard of it yet, continue reading to find out.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Up to the Mountain, Patty Griffin
Photo credit: thesixfifty.com

The Inspiration Behind “Up to the Mountain (MKL)”

Basically, Patty Griffin-penned this song as a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was based on King’s speech entitled “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top.” In 1968, Dr. King delivered the speech which left a strong message to the audience. In it, the late Baptist minister and activist expressed his profound views toward peace and perseverance. It was meant for the significant change that he’s waiting to take place. The following day after delivering his speech, MKL was assassinated at the Mason Temple in Memphis Tennessee. That then marked Dr. King’s final speech.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Up to the Mountain, Patty Griffin
Photo credit: history.com

The Popularity of the Song

The Soul artist Solomon Burke, who had known Dr. King, was the first to record this song. However, it was the American country singer Kelly Clarkson who brought it to popularity when she performed the song in front of a huge American audience in April 2007. The performance was a part of the charity episode of American Idol entitled Idol Gives Back. Clarkson’s performance with Jeff Beck was televised, propelling it No. 56 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Other performances followed including Susan Boyle, a British sensation, who went on to record the song on her I Dreamed A Dream album. Boyle later shared what the song means to her:

“Reassurance, love and the ability to keep going no matter what ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ life throws at you. God is our Light.”

Crystal Bowersox, an American Idol contender, also performed the song on the show in 2010. She later released her recording as a single on May 28, 2010, after finishing as a runner-up to Lee DeWyze. Her version charted at No. 57.

The Songwriter’s Background

Patty Griffin was known for penning very heartfelt songs. This makes her vocal range truly stand out. Many notable artists like Emmylou Harries and Dixie Chicks have since covered her songs.

She introduced “Up to the Mountain” to the public for the first time in 2005 during concert appearances. It was also included on her album Children Running Through which speaks a lot of her childhood. The inspiring song became very popular due to its meaning and strong message.

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