Title: A Change is Gonna Come
Artist: Sam Cooke
Year: 1964Album: Ain't That Good News
Posthumous releases tend to resonate with an increased level of sympathy and occasionally garner attention they would not otherwise receive. Consider Otis Redding's "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay" or Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle," both of which seems eerily prescient in light of their untimely deaths, but probably were not ascribed any special meaning by the artists when they recorded them. It's only after their tragic deaths that we the living elevate the songs to their lasting statuses.
Such is the case with "A Change is Gonna Come" but if you're going to have last words attributed to you, these seem like good ones. For that matter, if you're going to leave behind one final vocal performance, this also seems like the best possible choice. (Let's be thankful orchestral arranger René Hall wasn't forced to let this overblown arrangement serve as his final work.) Inspired by the work of Bob Dylan, Cooke diverted his successful pop career to record a song that became an inspiration for the Civil Rights movement of the mid- to late-1960s. He tapped into his gospel roots to deliver a performance that transcends singing and delivers a stirring sermon that not only reflects the experience of the repressed but inspires them to move forward.
Sadly, Cooke would not live to see the impact of his efforts as he was shot and killed by the manager of a Los Angeles motel in what was ruled a justifiable homicide.