- A Change Is Gonna Come (song)
Name =A Change Is Gonna Come
Type =album track, B-side to "Shake"
alt Artist =
Album =Ain't That Good News
Published =1963 (
December 22, 1964(single)
December 21, 1963
Los Angeles, California)
Writer =Sam Cooke
Hugo Peretti Luigi Creatore
Misc = Audiosample
Upper caption = Music sample
Name = A Change Is Gonna Come
Audio file= A Change Is Gonna Come sample.oggInfobox Song
Name = A Change Is Gonna Come
Released = 1965
Format = 7" single
Recorded = Stax Studios,
Memphis, Tennessee: 1965
Genre = Soul
Length = 4:17
Label = Volt/Atco
Last single = "My Girl"
This single = "A Change Is Gonna Come"
Next single = "
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
Ole Man Trouble"
#"A Change Is Gonna Come"
#"Down in the Valley"
I've Been Loving You Too Long"
#"Rock Me Baby"
You Don't Miss Your Water"
Audio sample? =
"A Change Is Gonna Come" is a 1964 single by
R&Bsinger-songwriter Sam Cooke, written and first recorded in 1963 and released under the RCA Victorlabel shortly after his death in late 1964. Though only a modest hit for Cooke in comparison with his previous singles, the song came to exemplify the sixties Civil Rights Movement. The song has gained in popularity and critical acclaim in the decades since its release.
Cooke was greatly moved upon hearing
Bob Dylan's " Blowin' in the Wind" in 1963 and was reportedly in aweFact|date=June 2008 that such a poignant song about racism in America could come from someone who was white. While on tour in May 1963, and after speaking with sit-in demonstrators in Durham, North Carolinafollowing a concert, Cooke returned to his tour bus and wrote the first draft of what would become "A Change Is Gonna Come."
In a sense, "A Change Is Gonna Come" is an answer to Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind", as well as a song of hope for the Civil Rights Movement. The hypothetical questions posed by Dylan, most obvious being "how many years can some people exist, before they're allowed to be free?", were answered by an implied "Fewer than you think." Though Cooke recognized "it's been a long/a long time coming", the song states that change is inevitable. A similar sentiment was echoed by Dylan in "
The Times They Are a-Changin'", written and released after "A Change Is Gonna Come." The song also reflected much of Cooke's own inner turmoil. Known for his polished image and light-hearted songs such as "You Send Me" and "Twistin' the Night Away", he had long felt the need to address the situation of discrimination and racism in America, especially the southern states. However, his image and fears of losing his largely white fan base prevented him from doing so.
The song, very much a departure for Cooke, reflected two major incidents in his life. The first was the death of Cooke's eighteen-month-old son, Vincent, who died of an accidental drowning in June of that year. The second major incident came on
October 8, 1963, when Cooke and his band tried to register at a "whites only" motel in Shreveport, Louisianaand were summarily arrested for disturbing the peace. Both incidents are represented in the weary tone and lyrics of the piece, especially the final verse: "there have been times that I 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."
After remaining confined to Cooke's notebooks for months of touring, "A Change Is Gonna Come" was finally recorded on
December 21, 1963. Recording took place at the RCA Studios in Los Angeles, Californiaduring sessions for Cooke's 1964 album, "Ain't That Good News".
According to author Peter Guralnick's biography of Cooke, "Dream Boogie", Cooke gave arranger
Rene Hallfree rein on song's musical arrangement. Hall came up with a dramatic orchestral backing highlighted by a mournful French horn. For his vocal, Cooke reached back to his gospel roots to sing the song with an intensity and passion never heard before on his pop recordings.
The song made its first appearance on "Ain't That Good News," the last album to be released within Cooke's lifetime. The LP did well, peaking at number 34 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart, making it more successful than Cooke's previous LP, 1963's "Night Beat".
However, Cooke and his new manager
Allen Kleinthought the song deserved greater exposure. According to Guralnick's book, Klein persuaded Cooke to sing "A Change Is Gonna Come" on his February 7, 1964appearance on The Tonight Show. Cooke sang the song; unfortunately, any impact it made was dimmed by The Beatles' history-making appearance on The Ed Sullivan Showjust two days later. In a further misfortune, NBC did not save the tape of Cooke's performance, which has never turned up in private collections either. RCA Recordshad bypassed "Change" for Cooke's early 1964 single, instead releasing the tracks "Good Times" and "(Ain't That) Good News". But the company agreed to put the song out as a single late in the year, as the B-side to Cooke's latest potential hit, "Shake." At one of his last recording sessions, Cooke approved an edit to the song that would shorten it by about 30 seconds, increasing its chance for airplay on American radio stations.
Finally given proper attention, "A Change Is Gonna Come" became a sensation among the black community, and was used an anthem for the ongoing civil rights protests. On R&B radio, the song peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Black Singles chart, and topped many local playlists, most notably in Chicago. The song had more limited success on
top 40radio. By February 1965, the song had peaked at number 31 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and fallen off. Cooke, however, did not live to see the song's commercial success. On December 11, 1964, he was killed at the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles, Californiaunder what many consider mysterious circumstances.
Though only a moderate success sales-wise, "A Change Is Gonna Come" became an anthem for the American Civil Rights Movement, and is widely considered Cooke's best composition. Over the years, the song has garnered significant praise and, in 2005, was voted number 12 by representatives of the music industry and press in "
Rolling Stone" magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and voted number 3 in the webzine Pitchfork Media's [http://pitchforkmedia.com/article/feature/37901/The_200_Greatest_Songs_of_the_1960s The 200 Greatest Songs of the 60s.] The song is also among three hundred songs deemed the most important ever recorded by National Public Radio(NPR) and was recently selected by the Library of Congressas one of twenty-five selected recordings to the National Recording Registryas of March 2007.
Despite its acclaim, legal troubles have haunted the single since its release. A dispute between Cooke's music publisher,
ABKCO, and record company, RCA Records, made the recording unavailable for much of the four decades since its release. Though the song was featured prominently in the 1992 film "Malcolm X", it could not be included in the film's soundtrack. By 2003, however, the disputes had been settled in time for the song to be included on the remastered version of "Ain't That Good News", as well as the Cooke anthology "Portrait of a Legend".
"A Change Is Gonna Come" was a precursor to many later socially-conscious singles, including
Marvin Gaye's lauded "What's Going On". Al Green, a self-professed fan of Cooke, covered the song for the concert celebrating the 1996 opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famein Cleveland, Ohio. Green's live rendition was included in the soundtrack to the 2001 Michael Mann film "Ali". James Taylorrecorded a version specially for an episode of the same title of the television drama "The West Wing". The Allman Brothers Bandcaptured their performance of the song on their 2003 DVD Live at the Beacon Theatre.
Other notable artists who have covered the song include
Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, The 5th Dimension(in a 1970 medley with The Rascals' " People Got to Be Free"), The Band, Billy Bragg, Solomon Burke, Terence Trent D'Arby, Gavin Degraw, the Fugees, the Cold War Kids, The Gits, Deitrick Haddon, Prince Buster, Morten Harket, The Neville Brothers, Johnny P, Otis Redding, Leela James, Tina Turner, and The Supremes. Arcade Firehas used the song in support of Barack Obama's nomination for President of the United States. In recent years, the song has served as a sample for rappers Ghostface Killah(1996), Ja Rule(2003), Papoose (2006), Lil Wayne(2007) "Long Time Coming (remix)" and Nas's It Was Writtenalbum also features a similar opening as the song. On their album "The Reunion" hip-hop artists Capone-N-Noreaga used an excerpt from the song on the opening track which shares the same title as the Cooke original. British soul singer Beverley Knightsays the song is her all time favourite and has performed it live many a time; most notably on 'Later with Jools Holland'. On May 6, 2008, during the seventh season of " American Idol", the song was sung by contestant Syesha Mercadoas the remaining top 4. Singer Seal also recently covered this song for his new album "Soul". It has been released as the leading single for the album. Mercado also covered the song on American Idol (season 7).
* Written by Sam Cooke.
* Produced by
Hugo Perettiand Luigi Creatore.
* Instrumentation by
Rene Hall(arrangement and conductor of orchestra), Larry Hilton, and Earl Palmer(drums).
* Engineering by
American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968)
Blowin' in the Wind
The Times They Are a-Changin'
* "Portrait of a Legend 1951-1964". Abkco Records, 2003. Los Angeles, California.
* [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17267529 Sam Cooke's Swan Song of Protest] NPR special on the selection of the song to the
National Recording Registry
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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