The Origin of an Anthem About Justice and Change

On the night of October 8, 1963, Sam Cooke made reservations for himself and his wife, Barbara, at a Holiday Inn in Louisiana. However, when they arrived tired and just wanting to sleep, they heard that the hotel was full and that there was no reservation. It wasn’t a mistake, nor was it true. Used to the racial segregation that dominated the United States in those years, Barbara didn’t even want to argue, but Sam didn’t take it easy. I wanted an explanation. Did not have. When he arrived at the other hotel where they were accepted, the police were waiting for him because the group was denounced as troublemakers. The confusion even made headlines in The New York Times.

Frustration, anger, and sadness inspired one of the most beautiful songs of the 1960s, A Change Is Gonna Come. Sam wanted to sing about the difficulties and pain that racism created. He created an anthem against injustice.

It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change gon’ come, he sings.

Just as the play (and movie) A Night in Miami recounts one of the most emotional moments in history, apart from the fact, that Sam would have been moved by Bob Dylan‘s 1963 song Blowin’ in the Wind. The song’s racist attitude moved the songwriter to tears, especially as it was written by a white man and he still had not made his musical contribution to the Civil Rights movement. After listening to Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, I Had a Dream, Sam overcame any fear of reprisal and wrote the song. He said he dreamed about her.

A Change Is Gonna Come became one of the main anthems of the Civil Rights movement and is considered the best composition left by the artist who died murdered a few years later. It is also considered one of the greatest American songs were ever written.

Sam Cooke only performed the song once live. He died months before the release of the single, in 1964. In A Night in Miami, it is the actor and singer Leslie Odom Jr, in an emotional performance, who sings, not dubs. It’s a long-awaited moment that doesn’t disappoint.

The film imagines a never-before-seen meeting between Sam Cooke, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, and Jim Brown. Interestingly, A Change Is Gonna Come is the song used in Spike Lee‘s film about Malcolm X.

Almost 58 years after it was written, the lyrics are still current. The song is one of the most covered in the world. And deserves it.

I was born by the river, in a little tent
Oh, and just like the river
I’ve been running ever sinceIt’s been a long
A long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh, yes it willIt’s been too hard living
But I’m afraid to die
‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there
Beyond the skyIt’s been a long
A long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh, yes it willI go to the movie
And I go downtown
Somebody keep telling me
Don’t hang aroundIt’s been a long
A long time coming
But I know, a change gonna come
Oh, yes it willThen I go to my brother
And I say, brother, help me please
But he winds up, knockin’ me
Back down on my kneesOh, there been times that I thought
I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able, to carry onIt’s been a long
A long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh, yes it will


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