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A Change Is Gonna Come
A Reason to Smile
Sometimes it feels like we are stuck on repeat, beset by headwinds that make progress seem excruciatingly difficult, if not unattainable.
We wonder: Is change even possible?
We recognize our nation’s uneven progress to a more just and equitable society. Looking back at our history, we can see periods of hope and forward movement. But there are also eras of backsliding and regression.
Where do we find ourselves today?
To change the status quo, especially one built upon the legacies of racism and injustice that permeated the nation at its founding, it’s important that we hold onto a sense that progress is possible. With this in mind, we felt that an apt song for our “A Reason to Smile” feature this week would be Sam Cooke’s iconic tribute to struggle and hope, "A Change Is Gonna Come."
Cooke was moved to write a rousing call for civil rights after hearing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.” He was especially inspired by Peter, Paul and Mary’s rendition, which proved that a song about civil rights could be a hit.
The song was also born from Cooke’s personal experience in Jim Crow America — particularly a formative incident when he, his wife, and his bandmates were turned away from a whites-only hotel in Shreveport, Louisiana.
In 2019, the mayor of Shreveport at the time, Adrian Perkins, who is Black and a graduate of both the United States Military Academy at West Point and Harvard Law School, apologized to members of the Cooke family and issued them the keys to the city. This moment stands as a testimony that change is indeed possible.
As Cooke wrote:
“It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will.”
Cooke’s recording of “A Change Is Gonna Come” was released posthumously in 1964, and we haven’t been able to find any video of him singing it. In the years that followed, there have been many wonderful covers of what has become an iconic contribution to American musical history.
We found one that brought an especially large smile to our face (and maybe a bit of mist to the eyes). And we’re apparently not alone. It has over 90 million views on YouTube — a duet between the singer Brian Owens and his father, Thomas.
And as promised above, here is Peter, Paul and Mary singing “Blowin’ in the Wind.” We’re still smiling.
And we actually found Sam Cooke singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” (along with the song “Tennessee Waltz”) from the pilot of the music show Shindig! in 1964. You can find “Blowin’ in the Wind” at the 2:24 mark.