Send Peace And Harmony Home
Late last year, as part of the research for the forthcoming Eddie Floyd autobiography, I interviewed former Stax Records VP and co-owner Al Bell in Little Rock, Arkansas. Bell, who had been an active member of Dr. Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement as far back as 1959, told me this story about the recording of the Shirley Walton single “Send Peace and Harmony Home,” which apparently took place on April 4, 1968.
I saw what was happening with the Poor People’s March on Washington and it was concerning me. Because it was going to be more white people going into Washington than black people. More whites were signing up. I said to myself it’s alright if he goes into DC with a million black people, this black man, but going in talking about the Poor People’s March… if he goes in with all these white people, that’s a problem. When you get to that state they call it incipient insurrection, the overthrow of government. They can’t let that black man come in and have with all those white people, that’s dangerous.
I told him when he came in, I’m writing a song for you, I want you to listen to it and talk to me about it. Because I really wanted him to take a sabbatical. I felt he needed to back up at that point in time – I didn’t mean back to the spiritual world, but… “winding, winding road, send peace and harmony home.” I knew I couldn’t take it to where (I needed to), so got with Booker first (T. Jones), and said “Booker, I need you to help me with this.” And then Eddie (Floyd) came along (and we finished writing it).
Shirley Walton came in and sang it. She couldn’t get it. I’d done about eight or ten takes and she couldn’t get it. And (Stax staffer) Homer Banks opened the door to the studio just as we were about to do another take and said, “Dr. Martin Luther King just got shot and killed.” She started singing at that moment. ‘Cos the tape was rolling, and we let it keep rolling. She cried as she sang the song. And after that I printed up a few copies and gave Mrs King and a few other people a copy. And Congressman Dan Kuykendall who was the Congressman for this district at the time. He went and read it into the Congressional Record.
-So it was written before Dr King died, and recorded the day that he died?
“Send Peace and Harmony Home” was released on the Stax subsidiary Enterprise. It was not a hit. It is available on the box set The Complete Stax/Volt Singles 1968-1971.