‘A Change Is Gonna Come’, a hymn for Civil Rights


Cassius Clay & Sam Cooke, 1963

“… Just after releasing this song and recording with his friend Muhammed Ali, Sam Cooke was murdered under somewhat mysterious circumstances. The story behind this masterpiece – and the song itself – is enough to give you goosebumps. … In the midst of segregation, in a country where the Jim Crow laws prohibited black and white spectators from attending concerts side by side, no black artist had ever been as successful as Elvis Presley. That is, except Sam Cooke. Shortly before writing ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’, this Mississippi pastor’s son was hot on the King’s heels at number 2 in the charts. Cooke’s journey is unique, both from an artistic point of view and in relation to the record industry. For many, his assassination in 1964 was considered akin to a triple homicide: the murder of a man, of an artist, and of a symbol of standing against racial segregation. … Like them, Cooke had started off singing in churches where his father, Charles S. Cook (our Cooke added the ‘e’ later in life) was a minister. Like many Americans born during racial segregation, he found life in the South impossible, and eventually made his way north to Chicago, the city where many go to make a name for themselves and where Barak Obama launched his career. Sam Cooke was born in 1931 in Mississippi. … A few months after the release of ‘You Send Me’, Cooke was invited onto the Ed Sullivan Show, but his performance was cut off because the live show had overrun. The show received so many complaints that Cooke was immediately re-booked. A little later he was the first black person to be invited onto the Dick Clark Show, which was nearly stopped due to threats from the Klu Klux Klan demanding that the show be cancelled. The show took place anyway! … Cooke never disowned his Black audiences, nor denied that there were problems, but one event in particular made him cross the Rubicon, and pushed the voice of an angel to call for change. … In 1963 Cooke arrived at a Louisiana hotel where he had made a reservation by telephone. Upon seeing him, however, the receptionist denied him access. A scandal. Cooke’s wife advised him to let it go and leave. ‘No, we’re not going to leave and no one can kill me, I’m Sam Cooke!’ replied the singer. That night ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ came to him in a dream, the only song to have come to him in this way. …”
PAM (Video)
SLATE: To Shift the Way the World Is Heard
W – A Change Is Gonna Come
Tragedy and Art: The Power of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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