Sunday, November 9, 2008

Track of the Week: A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke

Hearing so much about change during this elongated election season and then actually seeing change happen on election night, I could not help but think of the great Sam Cooke song "A Change Is Gonna Come." Released in 1964, the song chronicles the suffering of black people in the sixties. We have all read in our history books, at least, or seen movies that tell this same story. The tumult which characterized the sixties remains foremost in our cultural identity. But Sam Cooke captured the mood of the time like nobody else could. Only Bob Dylan's superb songs/pieces of living history come close if only to fall short due to Cooke's incredible gospel-influenced singing.

In fact, Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" created the spark Cooke needed to write his song. Hearing a white man, Dylan, sing a song, a so-called "protest tune," about experiences Dylan had not experienced combined with being arrested in Louisiana for trying to check into a "whites only" motel pulled this emotional song out of Cooke. Prior to "A Change Is Gonna Come" Cooke's songs, while very popular, consisted of, well, pop songs. His singing and writing drove the songs, but they were of no social significance.

Following the Louisiana incident and the death of his 18-month-old son, Cooke wrote and recorded one of the greatest songs of all time (number 12 of all time by Rolling Stone, number three of the 1960s from Pitchfork.

Listen to the sadness and then dig on Otis Redding nearly matching the power of the original (these are two of the greatest singers of all time, people).

Lyrics
I was born by the river in a little tent
And just like the river, I've been running ever since
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come

It's been too hard living, but I'm afraid to die
I don't know what's up there beyond the sky
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come

I go to the movie, and I go downtown
Somebody keep telling me "Don't hang around"
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come

Then I go to my brother and I say, "Brother, help me please"
But he winds up knocking me back down on my knees

There've been times that I've thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come

Samples
A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke
A Change Is Gonna Come by Otis Redding