Comic Art Friday: I wish I knew how it would feel to be free

This past Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the August 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Thinking about that historic event put me in mind of a classic song, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.” Written in 1954 by jazz pianist Billy Taylor, the song was first recorded by Taylor in November 1963, just three months after Dr. King’s speech. Although dozens of artists have covered it since then — including a version by British pop singer Sharlene Hector that appeared in a Coca-Cola commercial a few years back — the best-known rendition of “I Wish I Knew” is the 1967 recording by the legendary Nina Simone.

As I sit here with Ms. Simone’s magnificent, inimitable voice resounding through my headphones, kindly take a moment to read and reflect on these lyrics, composed by Taylor and songwriting partner Dick Dallas.

I wish I knew how it would feel to be free.
I wish I could break all the chains holding me.
I wish I could say all the things that I should say —
Say ’em loud, say ’em clear, for the whole round world to hear.

I wish I could share all the love that’s in my heart —
Remove all the bars that keep us apart.
I wish you could know what it means to be me.
Then you’d see and agree that everyone should be free.

I wish I could give all I’m longing to give.
I wish I could live like I’m longing to live.
I wish that I could do all the things that I can do —
Though I’m way overdue, I’d be starting anew.

I wish I could be like a bird in the sky —
How sweet it would be if I found I could fly!
Oh, I’d soar to the sun and look down at the sea
And I’d sing ’cause I’d know how it feels to be free.

Like Dr. King — and like Billy Taylor, and Nina Simone — I long for the day when every person on earth can truly be free… free to be themselves, free to enjoy the wonders and blessings of life, free from hunger and want and pain and fear, free to be loved and accepted and embraced for their own individual uniqueness without reservation or qualification.

I don’t know that that dream will be fulfilled in my lifetime, or The Daughter’s lifetime, or even in this old round world’s lifetime.

But it sure would be sweet, wouldn’t it?

Free Spirit and Mister Miracle, pencils by comics artist Geof Isherwood

The Common Elements entry pictured above is entitled “Breaking Free,” mostly because it features Mister Miracle (whose real name is Scott Free) and Free Spirit, who was Captain America’s sidekick for a brief time in the mid-1990s. (Her real name is Cathy Webster, in case you’re keeping track.) Artist Geof Isherwood masterfully expresses the character’s feelings of liberation and joy in this gorgeous drawing. Every time I look at it, I feel just a little bit more as though I might know what it’s like to be free. That makes me smile.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Explore posts in the same categories: Comic Art Friday, Getting Racial Up In This Piece, Hero of the Day, Soundtrack of My Life, SwanStuff, That's Cool!

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