February 2, 2014

"When he first played it for Bobby Womack, who was his protégé, he said, 'What's it sound like?' And Bobby said, 'It sounds like death.'"

"Sam said, 'Man, that's kind of how it sounds like to me. That's why I'm never going to play it in public.'"

50 years ago, Sam Cooke wrote and recorded "A Change Is Gonna Come."


Saint Croix said...

It sounds like death.

And yet it doesn't sound like death at all. It sounds like gospel music. It's meant to give people hope and courage.

So it's not a literal comment. He's not talking about the music, the way it sounds. He's talking about Sam Cooke's career. "It sounds like death." Meaning that if you record this song it might be the death of your career.

Cooke is going back to his gospel roots with this song. Back when his audience was black, church-going people. And that is clearly his audience for this song. This song is like an ode to MLK.

Cooke achieved major breakout success by singing happy love songs. So he could upset his white audience by a) singing a gospel-type song that is not aimed at white people and b) criticizing white people for segregation in the south.

Yet he did it anyway.

I love Cooke's music although, ironically, this song not so much. (Can't dance to it). But it's a amazing that he recorded it, and thoroughly admirable.

Ann Althouse said...

If you look at the lyrics, it can be interpreted as a song about death. That's a change that's going to come. "And I don't know what's up there, beyond the sky."

We're used to it as a civil rights anthem, and it is like the old slave songs that use a heaven metaphor for freedom.

SteveR said...

Such a great voice

traditionalguy said...

Freedom is heaven on earth. But staying one step ahead of the enslavers is a struggle on earth.

jr565 said...

"Then I go to my brother
And I say brother help me please
But he winds up knocking me
Back down on my knees"

I wonder who, in the black community he is referring to here?

Mark B said...

That was great.

Unfortunately, at the end of the NPR piece they pervert the legacy of this fighter against enslavement into a proponent of leftist tyranny: "Generation after generation has heard the promise of it. It continues to be a song of enormous impact," [Guralnick] says. "We all feel in some way or another that a change is gonna come, and he found that lyric. It was the kind of hook that he always looked for: The phrase that was both familiar but was striking enough that it would have its own originality. And that makes it almost endlessly adaptable to whatever goal, whatever movement is of the moment."

"Of the moment" meaning explicitly Obama at Grant Park. What an evil perversion.

Mark B said...

Evil and ridiculous, too. How can anyone conflate the great expansion of freedom that was the civil rights movement with the bullshit that is the Oba-Messiah feeling?

Cliff said...

Really guys? "Yes great song, but Obama! "

Skyler said...

For a song that is supposed to be the best song ever, why have I never heard it in my entire life?

William said...

Any unhappy child trapped in a bleak word can hear this song and speculate on a world transformed. There's hope in the lyrics, but the melody is dark and pessimistic.. A change is gonna come, but don't bet the farm the change will be for the better. I liked this song as much as Dirty Old Town and for the same reasons.

Saint Croix said...

"Then I go to my brother
And I say brother help me please
But he winds up knocking me
Back down on my knees"

I wonder who, in the black community he is referring to here?

I think he's actually criticizing white racism there. He's using "brother" in the spiritual sense, not the racial one.

minimus said...

I prefer Otis Redding's cover. The strings and production of Cooke's version tend homogenize and pasteurize the song.


Anonymous said...

Cooke had one of the more peculiar celebrity deaths. He had been nailing an Asian hooker in a rooms-by-the-hour ghetto motel, and she took off with his money while he was in the donicker. Cooke apparently thought that the motel management was behind the theft (not actually true), so he went storming into the motel office wearing nothing except a sports jacket and attacked the older woman working at the front desk. She shot him in what was later ruled a justifiable homicide.


a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

I can't remember the song, top 40, that was played a lot. alwys with the comment, 'the late great Sam Cook.' I knew his death had something to do with a sexual relationship with of a non-gospel nature if you will. The story of iron..weights makes me sad in that I imagine he was carrying a chip on his shoulder against hotel management related to the incident described which wouldn't have been, nor acted out, resulting in his death but for that prejudicial behavior.

Saint Croix said...

I can't remember the song, top 40, that was played a lot.

Could be this.

Or this.

Or this or this or this.

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a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

I guess the one that 'sends me' is 'Wonderful World.' What a melodious voice with such a wonderful, I think, soprano range. Really a better voice than Elvis Presley. I wish I could have heard him in concert at Louann's in Dallas a a kid. Mostly we had Johnny G and the G Men whose great piece was 'Little Egypt.'

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