With the news 94 year old Nelson Mandela is back in hospital, I wanted to end last night’s episode of The Two (co-hosted by Pam Corkery, Newstalk ZB Friday and Sunday evenings from 8pm) with a suitably incredible song for such an incredible man.
I chose a song which these days is better known as the alternative to Hallelujah for TV music talent show contestants who want to sound serious and soulful. I’m not too cool to realise the re-emergence of Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna’ Come via shows like American Idol, X-Factor, Got Talent and The Voice is ultimately a good thing. Indeed, I’m not too cool to admit I enjoy watching those shows (except for the frequently hokey New Zealand’s Got Talent).
But that said, it’s important for people who only know this song from earnest folks on latter-day reality TV to understand its origins. Some 50 years ago, Sam Cooke, the singer-songwriter often credited for inventing soul music as we know it, heard Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind and was astounded that such a socially conscious song (which tackled racism) could be written by a white man. He set out to create a song just as good.
What makes A Change Is Gonna’ Come even more poignant is that Cooke was dead by the time it had become a hit in 1964. Frequently voted one of the greatest songs of all time (recently #12 in Rolling Stone magazine), A Change Is Gonna’ Come is undoubtedly the grandfather of further socially-conscious soul songs like the Temptations Ball Of Confusion, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, Curtis Mayfield’s This Is My Country and Stevie Wonder’s Living For The City (amongst many, many others).
For Nelson Mandela, the man who ultimately did bring change to his country against the most startling of odds, here is Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna’ Come: