Today, the United States of America honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who fought for justice and equality within our nation. King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968, and the next day Gregg Allman wrote a song that coped with the loss and contemplated the terrifying truths of the Civil Rights Movement—a subject with which he was quite familiar as a member of an integrated band in the American South. The song, “God Rest His Soul”, never appeared on an official Allman Brothers record, though it was included on 1972’s Duane & Gregg Allman as well as 1997 Gregg Allman anthology One More Try.

On MLK Day 2016, Allman reminded his fans of the emotional tribute in a social media post. Along with the song’s lyrics, the post included a note from Gregg about the significance of “God Rest His Soul”.

“I wrote this song for a courageous man named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the day after he was assassinated on April 04, 1968,” he explained. “It’s a shame this song is still relevant today, although I’m grateful to the men and women who continue to fight for justice and equality.” Listen to Gregg Allman’s MLK tribute, “God Rest His Soul”, and read the song’s powerful lyrics below:

Gregg Allman – “God Rest His Soul”

Gregg Allman – “God Rest His Soul” – Lyrics

A man lay dying in the street
A thousand people fell down on their knees
Any other day he would have been preaching
Reaching all the people there, oh, Lord, Lord

But Lord knows I can’t change what I saw
I say, “God rest his soul”

The Memphis battleground was red
‘Cause blood came pouring from his head
Women and children fallin’ down, crying
For the man they loved so well, Lord, Lord, Lord

But Lord knows I can’t change what I saw
I say, “God rest his soul”

Lord knows I can’t change what I saw
I say, “God rest his soul”

The morning sun will rise again
With all their patience growing thin
What we gonna do when war is come and we’re dying?
Dying for the ’cause I know

Yeah, but, Lord knows I can’t change what I saw
I say, “God rest his soul”

Related: Remembering Gregg Allman With A “Whipping Post” From Every Decade [Videos]

The Allman Brothers Band rose to fame during a period of widespread racial tension in Macon, GA in the ’60s and ’70s and experienced racial prejudice firsthand as an interracial southern rock band. The band members even landed in jail one fateful night as a result of a racially-charged altercation in the Deep South. Read the full account of what happened that night, as told by Butch Truckshere.

[Pictured (clockwise from top left): Berry Oakley, Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks, Dickey Betts, Duane Allman (center). Jaimoe not pictured because jails were segregated in this part of the country in 1971]

Racism and systemic inequality persist in our country today, but we must strive to move closer to what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of with every step.

[Originally published January 2016]