His Song Became One Of The Anthems Of The Civil Rights Movement And Chronicled Black Pain And Hopefulness For The Future


Inspired by the Civil Rights movement, Sam Cooke debuted his song “Change Gonna Come”, which then became one of the anthems of the movement. It was a song that chronicled black pain and hopefulness for the future.

Half a century ago, on March 7, 1965, state troopers knocked down, gassed, and beat a number of men and women who were participating in a peaceful march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama. That same day, radio listeners around the country might have heard Sam Cooke singing a lyric he’d written and recorded several months earlier, but which could have been describing the “Bloody Sunday” confrontation on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

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

Like the Selma-to-Montgomery march, Cooke’s brooding but bright civil-rights anthem “A Change Is Gonna Come” recently marked its fiftieth anniversary. The song, which was released as the B-side of Cooke’s posthumous hit single “Shake” just days after his funeral, in December 1964, entered the national pop and R&B charts during the first week of 1965. It fell off the pop countdown, after peaking at No. 31, on March 13th, and would slip from the R&B charts, where it climbed to No. 9, on April 10.

These anniversaries have passed without much commemoration—somewhat surprisingly, given that Cooke’s recording remains as beloved and as timely as ever. Then again, it may be that the song’s persistent relevance explains the neglect. The deaths of 9 African Americans who were murdered at church in Charolette, South Carolina by a 21-year old white supremacist; serial shootings of unarmed black men by law enforcement; the Justice Department report on police abuse and corruption in Ferguson, Missouri; the gutting of a Voting Rights Act provision that was one key consequence of the Selma marches—these and other dispiriting headlines have perhaps rendered the confident optimism of Cooke’s masterpiece difficult to sing along to without seeming naïve. If Cooke were alive to update “A Change Is Gonna Come” for the current political scene, he might be tempted to rename it “The More Things Change.”

We’ve included the Barack Obama montage edited to the music of Same Cooke’s original “A Change Is Gonna Come”.

Original Article Found At http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-unlikely-story-of-a-change-is-gonna-come

1 Comment

  • Nandi Crawford December 23, 2016 - 7:12 pm

    I just finished reading Bobby Womack’s autobiography a week ago, and he stated that when he first heard it, he told Sam Cooke that it sounded like “death” and Sam said that he wouldn’t release it as a single period. But after his passing, it was released. What a song. He was watching The March on Washington and heard Bob Dylan sing “Blowing In The Wind” and this song was the reply to “Blowing In the Wind”.