Digital Classroom: Sam Cooke, "A Change Is Gonna Come"
"A Change Is Gonna Come" (1964)
Sam Cooke wrote and recorded “A Change Is Gonna Come” in part as a response to Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Cooke was moved and challenged by Dylan’s Civil Rights anthem, which was a hit for Peter, Paul & Mary. He felt that as an African-American he should try to write about the triumphs and struggles of the movement for his large pop audience. He wrote it in late 1963, but did not record it until almost a year later. It was released a few weeks after his death and has resonated with audiences since as a plea for equality and hope. The song mixes a lush pop arrangement with Cooke’s gospel vocals to make a sound unique in his catalog. Cooke biographer Daniel Wolff argues that the song’s greatness is how it “tries to unite its audience. ‘Change’ crosses musical barriers, combining gospel, blues, the nightclub ballad, and the protest song….All the divisions come together here—in his voice—and it carries us over.”