It was this day in 1964 that Sam Cooke was shot and killed in Los Angeles.
He’s most known to people for songs like “Cupid” and “Twistin’ The Night Away”, but I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to suggest that the most important song Cooke ever wrote or recorded was one of the last, “A Change Is Gonna Come”. It remains one of the keystone anthems of the American civil rights movement, and a deeply moving and beautiful song in its own right. This article by Greil Marcus pretty much sums it up.
[Edit: for some reason, my YouTube embed doesn’t seem to be working. Go watch a video of the song here.]
I wonder what Cooke would think if he were alive today — how much of his change he would have actually seen in America.
I was born by the river in a little old tent Oh, and just like that river, I’ve been runnin’ ever since It’s been a long, a long time coming, but I know A change is gonna come Oh, yes it is
It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die ‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there beyond the sky It’s been a long, a long time coming, but I know A change is gonna come
I go to the movies and I go downtown Somebody keeps telling me “Don’t hang around” It’s been a long, a long time coming, but I know A change is gonna come
Then I go to see my brother And I say “Brother, help me please” But he winds up knocking me Back down on my knees
There been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long But somehow I’m able to carry on It’s been a long time, a long time coming But I know a change is gonna come