Words: Genna Tardi
In 1963 Sam Cooke recorded “A Change is Gonna Come.” After his death in 1964, RCA Victor, the recording studio he was working with at the time, went on to release the song of a decade. This revolutionary civil rights anthem is considered to be just as poignant as Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” or Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up.” If those songs pose the question, Cooke’s is the answer. It’s #12 on Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The song of sadness and loss is also a song of great hope; with that said, we could almost consider it the blues. The melody and the subject matter come from a place of melancholy, but after the track has played all the way through, you find yourself in a better place than when you started. “Change” was written with two of his personal struggles in mind: the first was the death of his infant son but the second struggle was something that a generation could connect with on a deep level. The band was trying to register at a “whites only” hotel in Louisiana, and all were arrested on the spot for “disturbing the peace”.
Three years after the song was released, Cooke’s friend Aretha Franklin covered it on her 1967 record, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. The Queen of Soul’s version begins with her own brief preface: “There’s an old friend that I once heard say something that touched my heart, and it began this way…” The female vocals in no way replace the original, but they evoke the same soulful passion that Cooke intended.
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