This article gives background information on Sam Cooke’s motivation in creating, A Change Is Gonna Come. In the midst of the Civil Rights struggle and desegregation, our artist continued the tradition of slave hymns and field songs, ushering in hope through the darkest of times. #OYRchallenge.
On the surface, “A Change is Gonna Come” doesn’t sound particularly challenging, especially in light of the defiant freedom songs that rocked the movement in 1964, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round” or “I Got My Mind Stayed on Freedom.” The song was finally released as a single in late December of that year, shortly after Cooke’s untimely death. It quickly became one of the anthems of the movement and music historian Dave Marsh said that “A Change is Gonna Come” “ranks with Martin Luther King’s best speeches as a verbal encapsulation of the changes black perspective underwent in the Sixties.”
Despite surface appearances, African-American teenagers and movement activists knew exactly what it meant. The lyrics speak of a universally understood sense of alienation in their own land, of being treated as second-class citizens, of asking for help — and not receiving it, even from their own people. And like the great protest spirituals, even when recounting the grossest injustices, the singer continually returns to the hope, the expectation of justice: “Oh, there 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, a long time coming/But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.”