On the day of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, there can be no other song of the day than “Just In Time.”
About This Song
“Just In Time” was written by Jule Styne with lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green for the 1956 musical Bells Are Ringing, starring Judy Holliday and Sydney Chaplin.
About This Version
Today’s version is a live version from Bennett’s wonderful 1962 Carnegie Hall Concert.
Why Just In Time
In 1965, Harry Belafonte asked his friend Tony Bennett to join him and Martin Luther King on the march from Selma, Alabama to the state capital Montgomery and Bennett agreed.
This march was the third march. The first march started on March 7, 1965, day that came to be called Bloody Sunday; one of the leaders of that march was John Lewis, now a congressman from Georgia. The marchers got as far as the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where they were met by state troopers. The marchers were attacked by the troopers, who beat them with night sticks, threw tear gas into the crowd and even charged the crowd on horseback. John Lewis had his skull fractured, among the many injuries to the marchers. Congressman Lewis was interviewed about the march by NPR on the 45th anniversary of Bloody Sunday; you can listen to that interview here.
The second march occurred on Tuesday, March 9. The marches proceeded to the same Edmund Pettus Bridge and began to pray. A judge had put a restraining order on King to forbid the march and King complied. In spite of that, three white ministers were attacked by Klan and beaten. The public hospital in Selma refused to treat the ministers, one of whom, James Reeb, died two days later.
The third, and final, march occurred on March 21, after a judge ruled that the protesters had a First Amendment right to march in protest. The march started with 8000 marches, including Tony Bennett, Harry Belafonte, Frankie Laine and Nina Simone. On the night before they made it to Montgomery, Bennett and the other celebrities performed in an ad hoc concert for the marchers. There was no stage; a local funeral parlor provided coffins which were placed together to form a stage.
That night, Tony Bennett sang “Just In Time.”
When it was time to leave, Tony Bennett and Billy Eckstine were driven to the airport by a Michigan housewife named Viola Liuzzo, who believed strongly in voting rights, saying that “it was everybody’s fight” and came to Alabama to help. On her return from taking Bennett and Eckstine to the airport, she was attacked and killed by the Ku Klux Klan. NPR did a wonderful story about Mrs. Liuzzo and her family, which you can listen to here.
President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on August 6, 1965.
Harry Belafonte and Tony Bennett discuss the march in this video:
I am personally very grateful to Tony Bennett for his lifelong fight against racism. Thank you. In his autobiography The Good Life, Bennett speaks about his father as being “… a real humanist. Astoria had quite a diverse population, and we learned at an early age to respect people for who they are, and not to judge them by the color of their skin or the way they looked.”
I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama when all of this was happening and saw much of it first-hand. My late parents were active in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s; much like Viola Luizzo, they felt it was “everybody’s fight.” I learned the same lesson from my parents that Tony Bennett learned from his father. I am proud to be their daughter.