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I Was Born by the River: The Anthem of Change and Struggle

Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ is a timeless anthem that captures the struggle at the core of the Black American experience and evokes an aching optimism for troubled times. Written in 1963, the song became a rallying cry of the Civil Rights movement and has been covered by numerous artists, both old and new.

However, the power and impact of the song have raised concerns about the risk of dilution through excessive covers. While many renditions are wonderful, some may not fully capture the essence and emotion of the original.

The Genesis of an Anthem

Sam Cooke was inspired to write ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ after hearing Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowing in the Wind’. The song’s complexity and depth made Cooke realize the need for a composition that spoke to the struggles of race and rights. The profound impact of the song was evident from the beginning, and Cooke chose to honor it with a symphonic orchestration, performed live only once.

A Dirge of Desperation and Hope

Despite the seemingly uplifting chorus, the song carries a hard hope, a desperate cry for change amidst the overwhelming challenges faced by the Black community. It’s a recognition of the toll extracted by the struggle and a lament that evokes sorrow and grief. The song also holds an undercurrent of rage, often overshadowed by beautiful renditions.

Relevance and Resonance Through Covers

While numerous artists have covered the song, concerns arise about maintaining the song’s integrity and power. Beth Hart’s rendition stands out for its ferocity, bringing a distinctly feminine narrative to the oppression experienced by women. It’s a powerful reinterpretation that adds a new layer of relevance to the song.

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The Scare and Change of Great Songs

Great songs, like ‘A Change is Gonna Come’, have the power to change the world. However, they also require careful handling to preserve their impact and relevance. The song’s essence should be honored, and each performance should evoke the soulfulness and potency of the original.


1. Why is ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ considered an anthem?

‘A Change is Gonna Come’ has become an anthem due to its association with the Civil Rights movement and its timeless relevance to the struggles faced by the Black community.

2. What sets Beth Hart’s rendition apart?

Beth Hart’s version brings a ferocious energy to the song, adding a distinctly feminine narrative that resonates with the oppression experienced by women.

3. Why is there concern about excessive covers?

Excessive covers of a song like ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ raise concerns about diluting the power and impact of the original composition, potentially overshadowing its essence.

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4. How does the song capture the struggle of the Black American experience?

The song’s lyrics and emotional depth resonate with the challenges and hardships faced by the Black community, making it a poignant representation of their experiences.

5. What makes ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ a timeless anthem?

The song’s timeless relevance stems from its ability to capture the universal struggle for change and hope in the face of adversity, making it an enduring anthem for social justice.

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