Sunday, October 11, 2015

Musical Sanity Break- A Change is Gonna Come- Aretha Franklin

by Nomad

The background to this Sam Cooke song is a story worth telling. According the conventional telling, the impetus for the song came while the singer and song writer, Sam Cooke, was touring with his band in the Deep South in October 1963. 
It was a momentous time in American history. Only a month before, 15 September, four black schoolgirls had died in a malicious bombing during Sunday morning services in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama

Only the day before in Selma Alabama, "Freedom Day" had been organized.
 Comedian Dick Gregory, James Baldwin, Amelia Boynton and a host of civil rights leaders had come to the town to march to Selma's courthouse and register African Americans to vote. 
In Gary May's "Bending Toward Justice, "the scene that day was described like this:
On Freedom Day, hundreds of black Selmans were lined up at the courthouse to register. Only a select few were allowed in, and to register they had to pass oral and written tests to prove they were worthy to vote.
May notes that the watching over the crowd was Sheriff Clark and his men, some 50 troopers and 40 others. Clark described the law as his "posse." All of them were armed with guns, cattle prods and night sticks. took pictures of those inside as "another deterrent to registering." 

Throughout the South, throughout the entire nation, it was, to put it mildly, a tense time for both whites and blacks. Feelings and fears were running high.
Arriving in Shreveport Louisiana, Cooke and his entourage attempted to register at a "whites only" motel. Although prior arrangements had been made with the Holiday Inn North, when Cooke arrived with his wife and his band, the desk clerk explained that there were no vacancies. 

It was, Cooke thought quite rightly, an outrage. He refused to leave until the matter could be settled with the management. 
But this was the South and creating a scene- even when one was perfectly right (and black)- was asking for trouble. 
His wife warned him, "They'll kill you." Cooke remained defiant and said "They ain't gonna kill me, because I'm Sam Cooke." 
His wife reportedly said 'No, to them you're just another n---r you know."

(These words would prove to be prophetic . In a little more than year, on December 11, 1964 the 33-year-old Cooke was shot by a black hotel clerk in Los Angeles. The circumstances have always seemed suspicious.)

But back to the story. Cooke and his entourage finally left the motel, giving everybody within hearing distance a piece of their minds. By the time they arrived at the Castle Motel in downtown Shreveport, law enforcement were waiting to arrest them for disturbing the peace.

The story of Cooke's arrest was run in the New York Times the following days, stirring more outrage among the black community.
Eventually, after being inspired by Bob Dylan's protest music, Cooke turned to his profession to register his anger and disappointment at the events. It was a risky move for a star that had effectively made the difficult cross-over attracting both white and black audiences.

From that event in Louisiana, the song was born within a month or two. 

Although Cooke had performed the song on national TV earlier that year, the song was only officially released about two weeks after Cooke's death, on 22 December 1964.
It would become an anthem for the American Civil Rights Movement.

This particular version by Ms. Franklin was recorded and released in 1967 on the album, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You