A Change Is Gonna Come

A Change Is Gonna Come

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In his song, A Change Is Gonna Come, singer Sam Cooke gave testimony to his struggles (shared and personal) for civil rights and social justice. He sang about change being "a long time coming," but, despite the hardships, knew "a change is gonna come." His song became an anthem for the civil rights movement, speaking to human uplift and triumph against adversity. Many artists since have recorded "A Change Is Gonna Come" as part of their personal activism for civil rights. This project, A Change Is Gonna Come, celebrates Sam Cooke and his efforts to prompt us all to keep working for civil rights and social justice. At a time when civil rights are attacked with renewed vigor, from the highest level of government, and social justice is routinely denied many people, it is important to remember the struggles of Cooke and others who sought to facilitate change in our communities, society, and world. This project also reminds us that there is work still to be done. Millions of people yearn for the freedom to exercise their civil rights in a just society. Change is gonna come. Listen and help it arrive a lot sooner. Listen to Cooke's original version of A Change Is Gonna Come.


Singer Sam Cooke was arrested in Shreveport, Louisiana, in October 1963 for disturbing the peace. Despite reservations, he and his family were denied lodging at local white-only hotels. When he argued with hotel personnel, they called the police.

Cooke decided to write a song that he hoped would move peoples' thinking. By December he had written "A Change Is Gonna Come." In February 1964, he performed it live on the Johnny Carson television show. Two days later, The Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan television show.

Cooke recorded "A Change Is Gonna Come" in November 1964. His record company, RCA, released it 22 December. Sadly, Cooke died eleven days earlier, on 11 December.

"A Change Is Gonna Come" became a civil rights anthem. Dozens of artists have recorded versions. In 2005, the song was named number twelve in Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 2007, it was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress, with the National Recording Registry deeming the song "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important" (Cannady, Sheryl. 2007. "Recordings by Historical Figures and Musical Legends Added To the 2006 National Recording Registry". Library of Congress, March.).


Enjoy these versions of "A Change Is Gonna Come." Think about change, and what you can do to help its coming.
Aaron Neville

Al Green and Booker T. and The MGs

Aretha Franklin

Bettye LaVette

Bill Frisell

Billy Ocean

Bobby Womack

Brian Owens and Thomas Owens

The Campbell Brothers and John Medeski

Cold War Kids

Jeff Beck

Joey Defrancesco

John Butte

King Curtis

Lamont Hadley

Lee Logan and The Original Drifters

New Orleans Heartbreakers and Big Al Carson

Otis Redding

Patti LaBelle

Playing for Change Band

Prince Buster

Solomon Burke

Terence Trent D'Arby

The Band

Tina Turner

Wes Mackey


I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh and just like the river I've been running ev'r since
It's been a long time, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

It's been too hard living, but I'm afraid to die
'Cause I don't know what's up there, beyond the sky
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

I go to the movie and I go downtown
Somebody keep tellin' me don't hang around
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

Then I go to my brother
And I say brother help me please
But he winds up knockin' me
Back down on my knees, oh
There have been times that I thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will

Lyrics by Sam Cooke