1001 Songs Challenge,  1960s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #157: A Change Is Gonna Come (1964)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…


Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come (1964)

After an enjoyable stay in Brazil, we’re taking a plane back north to the US just in time for a second appearance on this list from Sam Cooke. We previously enjoyed You Send Me from the King of Soul. Today’s song was something of a risk, more political than previous material and not a ballad he was renowned for before. Cooke was inspired both by Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind but, more importantly, by his own ill treatment in an America that still viewed black citizens as inferior and often with hostility. Cooke responded to his own experiences by penning A Change Is Gonna Come

A Change Is Gonna Come is both Cooke’s summation of life as a black American but also his firm belief that, as the title suggests, things are going to get better. Change is in the air and the treatment of black Americans will improve. The civil rights movement was gathering pace at this time so Cooke would have been aware and hoping for a positive outcome. The song features such comparisons as Cooke being akin to a river i.e. always running and how he tries to go and see a movie but is told to not hang around at this place. Cooke’s own life, despite his fame, would be one where he was on the receiving end of racism and this song was partly inspired by him and friends being refused rooms at a white only hotel only to be arrested upon arrival at another hotel.  

A sweeping melody takes us into this song before that crisp and beautiful voice of Sam Cooke comes to the fore and guides us through each and every heartrending line. The change that he hopes for has come in some respects but one feels that present day society, especially in the US and the UK, is going backwards in terms of racial attitudes which is a travesty. Cooke would not live to see any of the change that was to follow. By the end of 1964 he would be dead, shot and killed by a hotel manager that claimed she acted in self-defence and the authorities deemed it a justifiable homicide. It remains a controversial incident to this day, with fans of Cooke left to reflect on what might have been.


Favourite songs so far:

Chuck Berry – Johnny B. Goode (1958)

Ritchie Valens – La Bamba (1958)

Eddie Cochran – Summertime Blues (1958)

The Everly Brothers – All I Have to Do Is Dream (1958)

Edith Piaf – Non, je ne regrette rien (1960)

Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1961)

Roy Orbison – In Dreams (1963)

Dionne Warwick – Walk On By (1964)

Mina – E se domani (1964)

Sam Cooke – A Change Is Gonna Come (1964)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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