Today’s Throwback Thursday is the first in a series of four for Black History Month. First up, Sam Cooke’s classic Civil Rights Movement Ballad, A Change is Gonna Come.
Sam Cooke (January 22, 1931 – December 11, 1964) was an American Singer-songwriter and recording artist. One of eight children, he was born in Mississippi and grew up in Chicago. His father was a minister, and he found early success as a gospel singer.
Soon after high school, he joined the iconic and influential gospel group, The Soul Stirrers. After six years honing his craft with them, he began to branch out on his own, with more secular music. His first big hit was 1957’s You Send Me. Cooke was not only a talented song writer and singer, he was also a sound business man. He negotiated a ground-breaking contract with RCA records in the early 60’s, retaining ownership of his master recording for thirty years, and he started his own record label, SAR Records in 1961. His song, Chain Gang, was his second biggest hit and is a good example of his deft use of music and lyrics for social commentary.
The beautiful, haunting single, A Change is Gonna Come, was released in 1963. Rolling Stone has named it one of the greatest songs of all time, it was written in part as a direct reaction to Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind. A powerful departure for Cooke, it addressed the Civil Rights Movement directly. Cooke is said to have been deeply affected by Dylan’s song, covering it frequently after it’s release. His biographer, Peter Guralnick, says he was jarred that such a powerful message about Civil Rights had come from a white person, and wrote his song as a result. It was released just a few weeks after his sudden death, and has become an ageless message of hope and change.