A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke

It was February 7, 1964 when hit song Change Is Gonna Come was first performed by singer and song writer Sam Cooke and quickly became one of the American civil right movement anthems. It’s...

It was February 7, 1964 when hit song Change Is Gonna Come was first performed by singer and song writer Sam Cooke and quickly became one of the American civil right movement anthems. It’s easy to understand why, even before hearing the lyrics. The title says it all: change is what humans have been looking for since the beginning, especially by those who have had their rights stepped on, and history teaches us that one of the most persecuted group of people has been African Americans.

The song was in fact composed in 1963 by Sam Cooke, born in Illinois, US, a key moment for the fight in the name of equal rights of black and white people. It was performed by Cooke only once on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, pushed by his manager Allen Klein who saw in the song an opportunity to move his client’s career forwards. Cooke was actually sceptic about playing Change because it reminded him of the particularly frustrating occasion that brought him to compose it.

A few months before, Cooke has made a reservation for his wife and band at a motel in Louisiana but when they arrived there they were abruptly asked to leave since that was a “whites only” place. Cooke and his entourage, including his brother Charles, raised their voices protesting and demanding an equal treatment and left. When they arrived in another motel, they found the police waiting for them, ready to arrest them for disturbing the peace. That was just one of the two reasons that led Cooke to write Change; the other inspiration came from Bob Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind which made Cooke realize that he had never written anything about the African Americans frustration and call for rebellion, something he could easily relate to, besides the fact that such an important issue had been brought up by a white man.

As said, Cooke was able to perform the song only once, due to his sudden death on December 11, 1964 at the age of 33, when he was shot dead in front of a motel in Los Angeles. The reasons of his murder are still uncertain but one can easily recall the line of Change when the author says: “It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die / ‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there, beyond the sky“. The song was released posthumously as a single in late 1964.

The most remarkable value of Change lies in the deep meaning of its simple words and the hope that the song calls for can become the anthem of countless groups of people that, even today, after 50 years, ask for better life conditions.

Change Is Gonna Come knew a numerous versions by artists as diverse as Aretha Franklin, the Nylons, and Israeli performer Anat Cohen. In January 2009, at the first inaugural concert for President Barack Obama, We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial, the duet by Bettye LaVette and Jon Bon Jovi performing Change became a symbol of a new generation facing a new era for the black empowerment.

 

I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh and just like the river I’ve been running ev’r since
It’s been a long time, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die
‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there, beyond the sky
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

I go to the movie and I go downtown
Somebody keep tellin’ me don’t hang around
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

Then I go to my brother
And I say brother help me please
But he winds up knockin’ me
Back down on my knees, oh

There have been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will

A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
Rate this post
Categories
Sounds from the Bucket
Francesca Aloisio

Francesca is both an International Relations graduate and a dancer living in Rome. She is particularly interested in international issues, intercultural learning and culture sharing, as well as music and arts. She is currently a consultant for the UN agency IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) in the communication division.
No Comment

Leave a Reply

*

*

RELATED POSTS