Musical genius Stevie Wonder was instrumental in the creation of Martin Luther King Day. His Hotter than July (1980) became Wonder’s first platinum-selling single album, and its single “Happy Birthday” was a successful vehicle for his campaign to establish Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday as a national holiday.
Cuepoint has the story.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter, who had been elected with the support of the unions, endorsed the bill to create the holiday. Carter made an emotional appearance at King’s old church, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. But Congress refused to budge, led by conservative Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who denounced King as a lawbreaker who had been manipulated by Communists. The situation looked bleak.
By then, Wonder had matured from a young harmonica-playing sensation to a chart-topping music genius lauded for his complex rhythms and socially-conscious lyrics about racism, black liberation, love and unity. He had kept in touch with Coretta Scott King, regularly performing at rallies to push for the holiday. He told a cheering crowd in Atlanta in the summer of 1979, “If we cannot celebrate a man who died for love, then how can we say we believe in it? It is up to me and you.”
“How Stevie Wonder Helped Create Martin Luther King Day“