Classics: Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come (RCA)
“I was born by the river in a little tent. Oh and just like the river I’ve been running ev’r since…” Don’t ask me how I stumbled upon the beauty of the melody of this song when I was not even a teen!
On top of that, I didn’t understand the lyrics at the time. And when I started doin’ so, a few years after, I couldn’t then understand how some people could hate because of the religion of the others. When not their skin color. And I suppose I made myself a clearer idea the first time I went to a Southern State of America. Eventually crossing the path of some red necks who were handling a flag of the (former) Confederation.
There, I couldn’t help but thinkin’ of songs such as Neil Young‘s ‘Alabama’ or Timmy Thomas‘ ‘Why Can’t We Live Together’. With the images of films such as ‘In The Heat Of The Night’ comin’ to mind. “A change is gonna come…” And I couldn’t help neither thinkin’ of the one who paid with his life for this change to happen. In other words, Martin Luther King, Jr.. Eventually visiting his grave when I came to Atlanta, GA where I found myself crying. This in front of such an injustice. Then comin’ to feel such a shame for havin’ the skin color of the (KKK) haters…
“A change is gonna come…” No more could I understand when, during a conversation we had in Paris, Mike Banks of the Underground Resistance fame told me he had the feeling of being a second class citizen. And even more when comin’ back to his home country after a few days abroad.
“I go to the movie and I go down town. Somebody keep telling 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…”
No wonder how this vibrant story has become one of Sam Cooke‘s signature songs. Even tough RCA pressed it as the flipside of ‘Shake’ for some reason on its commercial 7 inch release. One of the reasons why it remained a modest hit for him? Possibly at the end. Even though this didn’t get it from becoming an anthem for the American Civil Rights Movement.
Sam Cooke is of those rare figures speaking of whom the souvenir has remained alive along with time. Belonging to a list where are to be found Donny Hathaway, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix or Amy Winehouse more recently. If not 60’s actor James Dean or Formula 1 Brazilian pilot Ayrton Senna among others. As many faces which a tragical destiny prevented from delivering the entirety of their talent.
A native of Clarksdale, MS Sam Cooke established himself as one of the most influential artists in the history of Soul. People commonly seeing him as the King of the genre, although he used to consider the late Otis Redding as. As a result, no wonder why nor how his pioneering contributions to Soul Music sort of opened the path to countless luminaries that were to soon after follow. From Al Green to Bobby Womack. But also Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Solomon Burke to name a few.
He scored no less than 30 top 40 hits Stateside from 1957 until 1964. Thus focusing, like most of his contemporaries back then, on singles. ‘You Send Me’ which marked his debut, pretty much opened the series. With extra gems such as ‘Twistin’ The Night Away’, ‘Beautiful World’ and ‘Cupid’ completing the list. These in addition to ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’, ‘Chain Gang’ and ‘Another Saturday Night’. If not ‘Bring It On Home To Me’ with long time friend Lou Rawls on backing vocals.
Last but not least, the man also managed to be a visionary by the time being. This while launching both a record label and a publishing company as an extension of his activities.
Cooke released a total of 14 albums. With the latest to date – ‘Live At The Harlem Square Club, 1963 – back in 1985 after RCA kept it on hold for some (extra) reasons.
On Dec. 11, 1964, Bertha Franklin, the manager of the Los Angeles Hacienda Hotel, fatally gunned a 33 years old Sam Cooke.
The courts concluded his death to be a justifiable homicide. Although leavin’ his family and friends in prey of serious doubts since…