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Morning Song – A Change Is Gonna Come

December 7, 2015

(Two years ago Rolling Stone published a “reader’s poll” of the “10 best protest songs of all time”.  All the songs were by men. Rage Against The Machine was the only racially integrated group. Eight of the songs were from the 1960s.  Six were by Bob Dylan or some combination of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.  The whole thing was pretty much a parody-in-miniature of everything that’s wrong with Rolling Stone.

Here—and for the next couple of weeks—are some of the songs that Rolling Stone left out.)

Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” never got higher than #31 on the Billboard Pop charts (and it’s a testament to how great a song it is that it got that far; released as a B side, it only started climbing the charts after Black radio stations flipped over the single and started playing it on the air), but it’s one of the great 20th century American ballads…let alone one of the great songs of the civil rights movement.

Cooke was inspired in part by one of the songs that did make Rolling Stone’s list—Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind”.  But where “Blowin’ In The Wind” is set in the words of a semi-detached observer of passing events, “A Change Is Gonna Come” places its narrator in the metaphorical midst (“I was born by the river in a little tent“) of a broad, sweeping, centuries-long struggle of his people.  Cooke says, in effect, it doesn’t matter which way the wind may blow.  This river is going to keep flowing, wearing away the rock of racism, indifference and hatred, carving a new and better landscape.

You can have your “protest”; we’re going to overcome.

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From → Music

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