Tune du Jour: “A Change Is Gonna Come” – Sam Cooke
THE CLASH of Cover Tunes: Billy Bragg vs. Mike Farris & The Roseland Rhythm Revue
Peruse, Comment and Vote (I Beseech, Implore and Urge Thee, respectively)
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Sam Cooke wrote A Change Is Gonna Come in December 1963. Cooke’s previous work had been in gospel music and, later, soulful pop songs that were sentimental and, at times, satirical in nature. A Change Is Gonna Come was markedly different from anything Cooke had ever composed before. The song is defiant in nature, emphatic that a change for long-suffering African Americans “is gonna come”. Cooke wrote A Change Is Gonna Come in response to an ugly incident he endured in October 1963. Cooke and his band were touring the south and had reservations at a Holiday Inn in Shreveport, Louisiana. When they arrived they were told that no rooms were available; it was obvious that the hotel had rooms available but was a whites-only establishment, which was the real reason Cooke’s reservations would not be honored. Cooke was furious and let the manager know it. When Cooke drove off in search of another hotel, a police car followed and arrested him for disturbing the peace. Not surprisingly he was traumatized by the overtly racist treatment. Another inspiration in Cooke writing such a blunt song about racial inequality was his admiration for Bob Dylan’s masterpiece, Blowin’ In The Wind, which was released in August 1963. Cooke was captivated by the song’s frank admonishment of racism and was said to be a bit ashamed that a white man was speaking out for the black community while he had yet to make any statement at all. Indeed, Cooke told his producer, J.W. Alexander, that he hoped A Change Is Gonna Come would make his father proud. 

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Sam Cooke debuted A Change Is Gonna Come on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson on February 7, 1964. It would be the only time he ever performed the song. The musical accompaniment was complex and its essence foreboding and somewhat frightening. After hearing it on The Tonight Show, Cooke’s friend and protege, Bobby Womack, told him that the song sounded “like death.” Cooke responded, “Man, that’s kind of how it sounds like to me. That’s why I’m never going to play it in public.” Womack clarified his thoughts, that it wasn’t deathly, but rather “spooky,” but Cooke never performed the song again.

A Change Is Gonna Come was released on December 22, 1964. Tragically, under circumstances that to this day are still mysterious, Sam Cooke had been shot and killed on December 11, 1964, at the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles, California. He was but 33 years of age at the time.

Though only a moderate success in terms of sales, A Change Is Gonna Come is widely recognized as Sam Cooke’s seminal work. Not surprisingly the song became a staple for the country’s rising civil rights movement.

The Original

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Sam Cooke:

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THE CLASH of Cover Tunes

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Billy Bragg vs. Mike Farris

I suppose it’s “been a long time coming” but this is a momentous first on Cover Me Impressed. Two Melodious Maximi squaring off against each other!!! May the Best Maximus Win…

Billy Bragg:

Billy Bragg is a recipient of CMI’s universally coveted title of Bi Victor Melodious Maximus in Adversarial Replication. Among the title’s myriad of rewards and benefits, perhaps most desirous is that it bestows upon the recipient the eminently yearned for privilege of having one’s name appear in print media in bold orange!

Billy Bragg’s triumphal exploits in CMI’s THE CLASH of Cover Tunes competitions are detailed below:

12/26/2014 – “Fairytale of New York” (The Pogues) – Billy Bragg with Florence + the Machine (75%) thump Third Eye Blind (25%)

11/18/2013 – “Which Side Are You On?” (Almanac Singers) – Billy Bragg (57%) bests Dropkick Murphys (43%)

Mike Farris:

Mike Farris is a recipient of CMI’s universally coveted title of Uni Victor Melodious Maximus in Adversarial Replication. Among the title’s myriad of rewards and benefits, perhaps most desirous is that it bestows upon the recipient the eminently yearned for privilege of having one’s name appear in print media in bold gold!

Mike Farris’ triumph in CMI’s THE CLASH of Cover Tunes competition is detailed below:

1/11/2014 – “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” (The Carter Family) – Mike Farris & The Roseland Rhythm Revue featuring the McCrary Sisters (86%) humiliate Ken Parker (14%)

I eschewed Farris’ studio version of A Change Is Gonna Come for this stompin’ live rendition with The Roseland Rhythm Revue:

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Oh the disharmony! Much like Harlan County there are no neutrals here. Only one cover tune will live to play another day and it is your solemn responsibility to decide which one prevails. So tell me … Which Side Are You On?!!?

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Votes can be cast up to three months from the day and time of the original post.

Disclaimer: Votes cast from Florida may or may not be counted.

  1. Cuspid says:

    This kind of thing is Billy Bragg’s bread and butter. Farris is very good. But Bragg is better.

  2. Arnold Plotnick says:

    I thought sheesh, this has to go to Billy. But I was quite surprised by Farris, who really belted it out. I listened twice, and I’m givin’ it to Farris. Whoda thunk? And as for the mysterious circumstances of Sam Cooke’s death, one thing is for certain: Tug McGraw was NOT involved. (In this one, at least.)

  3. RDubbs says:

    You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger William Q Boast-A-Lot fan than I, but he never really had a chance in this one. To paraphrase an old saying ‘Bragg brought a knife to a gunfight’ while Farris came armed to the teeth.

  4. Clare Xanthos says:

    I like the original too much; it feels sacrilegious to listen to others singing it. 🙂

  5. audreyhoman says:

    Yeah, neither cover works for me as well as Mia Zapata and the Gits’ version: https://youtu.be/V6mQdnr6dm4

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