Sam Cooke was born in Mississippi in 1931 and raised in Chicago. His father was a priest. Cooke was a very famous soul and gospel musician throughout the fifties and sixties, but he also incorporated pop and R&B styles into his songs. He reached the top of the charts with many of his songs such as "You Send Me", "Chain Gang", "Wonderful World", "Summertime", and "A Change is Gonna Come".
He was shot and killed on December 11th, 1964 in Los Angeles, two weeks before "A Change is Gonna Come" was released. The song became a well known anthem of the civil rights movement.
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"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."
- "I was born by the river in a little tent. Oh and just like the river I've been running ev'r since." : These lyrics display the way that African Americans during the 1960's era were "running" (similar to how a river "runs") from racial discrimination and the troubles associated with it.
- "It's been a long time, a long time coming. But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will" : These lyrics describe the fact that African Americans at the time had been suffering for quite some time, but changes such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the voting rights act of 1965 would come and help ease some of the troubles.
This song was written during the civil rights movement at a time when these lyrics spoke to many Africans Americans who had faced so much suffering and racial discrimination. This song was written as a message of hope to all African Americans who were fighting in the civil rights movement that better times were coming. Cooke was also inspired by Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" to write this song.