Daily Distraction: The story behind Sam Cooke's 'A Change is Gonna Come'
On June 3, I meandered through Downtown while covering protests near the Statehouse and came upon a mural on the plywood barricade in front of the Huntington Center on South High Street. The spray-painted image depicted Sam Cooke surrounded by music notes, along with a snippet of lyrics: "Change gonna come."
"A Change is Gonna Come" was released as a B-side in December of 1964 — the same month Cooke died — and the protest anthem has endured, partly because the issues Cooke sang about have never gone away. In his soulful croon, Cooke describes his plight: "I go to the movie and I go downtown/Somebody keep tellin’ me, don’t hang around." And while the lyrics express confidence and hope in a transformed world where Black Americans are treated equally ("I know, a change gon' come"), his voice is full of lament.
In 2015, The New Yorker traced the unlikely history of the song, beginning with the inspiration Cooke found in Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," but not stopping there. Read the full story here, and listen to the song below while you read.