What follows is an absolutely true, and and pretty much verbatim MLK Day story…

“So, how was school today, Maria?”

“Fine, Daddy.”

“What did you learn today, sweetie?”

“We learned about Mar….Martin….Martin Luther…”

“Martin Luther King?”

“Yes! We learned about Martin Luther King.”

“What did you learn about Martin Luther King, sweetie?”

“Well….there was this woman. And she got on the bus…And she sat down….she sat down on the front of the bus…”

“Yes, that’s right, sweetie.”

“And when the bus stopped, they arrested her!”

“Yes…yes, they did, sweetie. But what did Martin Luther King do?”

“Well, he led the protests.”

“Yes, that’s right, sweetie.”

“You see, there were these signs….on the water fountains. And they said ‘WHITES ONLY.'”

“Yes, it’s sad, but that’s true. Back in those days, there were those kind of signs.”

“And…and…there were signs on the restaurants that said “WHITES ONLY.”

“Yes, yes there were.”

“And even on the schools! There were schools where they said “WHITES ONLY.”

“Yes, yes, it’s hard to believe, sweetie. But that’s true.”

“But Martin Luther King…he died…”

“Yes, he did, sweetie.”

“Somebody shot him.”

“Yes, they did. But you know, Sweet Pea, he did a really great thing. He made life better for all of
us. And sometimes, it’s important to do the right thing…even if it’s hard or painful.”

“Yes! Because…..well, because if he didn’t do those protests, then Mommy…well, Mommy couldn’t live with us!!”

“Well, I’ve never thought of it that way, Maria. But you may be right about that…”

“And if Mommy couldn’t live with us…then I…then I…then I would be CANCELLED!”

“Oh no, sweetie! Nobody as beautiful as you could ever be cancelled.”

Every year at time time, I whip out my favorite MLK song, from the great songwriter, Don Henry. I re-learn the chords again, and if I have gig that week, it’s in the set.
It’s called “Beautiful Fool.”

The song haunted me for years. I first heard it on KERA, back when they actually played music during an hour when anyone was listening. It was one of those “stop the car, pull over, and listen” moments for me. And after the song was over, all I caught was that the guy’s name was “Henry.” (This was back before cell phones, and so I couldn’t call right in to find out what it was….)

I searched for that song for years, every single time I was in a record store. I had only heard it
once, but the gist of it had stayed with me all that time. Finally, a couple of years ago, I stumbled on a Steve Seskind CD, which had the cut on it, and finally the mystery was solved. It was as amazing a song ten years after the first time I heard it…

Interestingly, when Erik Balkey was here the other day, he told a similar tale of being haunted by the song.

He talked of a show he went to in the early 90s where David Wilcox, Don Henry, and The Billy’s were the bill for the night. (What a show!!)

Before Erik left, I played it, and we both sang.
It’s an amazing song, and I hope you will come to love it as much as I do.


Here’s a great version of Don Henry doing the song at the Bluebird Cafe.

by Don Henry
“Martin Luther, who did you think that you were
Appointed by some higher up?
Merely mortal, your plans were unaffordable
No one wants to pay for love
Oh, you beautiful fool, swimming upstream,
kicking up waves
Dreams weren’t meant to come true
That’s why they call ’em dreams
Oh, you beautiful fool

Walter Cronkite pre-empted Disney one night
And all us kids were so upset
We thought that you were a trouble instigator
Marching through our TV set
Oh, you beautiful fool, swimming upstream,
kicking up waves
Dreams weren’t meant to come true
That’s why they call ’em dreams
Oh, you beautiful fool

To fight a fight without a fist
All human instinct puzzles this
How dare you question our existence
Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus Christ,
history repeats itself so nice
Consistently we are resistant to love

I saw you on the black and white
With blacks and whites applauding you
I saw you on another time
without a sign of life in you
Oh, you beautiful fool, swimming upstream,
kicking up waves
Dreams weren’t meant to come true
That’s why they call ’em dreams
Oh, you beautiful fool
Oh, you beautiful fool”
– Don Henry


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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of The Woods United Methodist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas. For seventeen years, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas, Texas. Eric is an avid blogger and published author. Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy.

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