By Chris Cunningham
Local Outreach Coordinator, Grand Canyon University Spiritual Life
Sam Cooke, like many black men then and now, wouldn’t live to see the legacy of his magnum opus: “A Change is Gonna Come.”
A single bullet to the chest brought the beat of his tired heart to rest at the age of 33. Many theories surround the motive behind his shooting; none change the fact that Cooke died at a time when the world needed to hear his voice.
Whether knowingly or otherwise, Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” acts as a conversation with Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
Dylan’s ragged voice poses a series of questions to the listener:
How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?
How many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn’t see? […]
How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry?
How many deaths will it take ‘til he knows that too many people have died?”
Fear tempered, but hopeful Cooke replies to his brother, his fellow human:
It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die.
‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there, beyond the sky.
It’s been a long, long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.
Some say the Ferguson riots, the New York protests and the recent Baltimore backlash are all severe overreactions.
“A change has come,” they say.
To be blunt, I’m not a believer. The change Cooke sang about, that Dylan wept for, that Martin Luther King, Jr. died for, seems elusive these days. Just blowin’ in the wind somewhere…
Somewhere in Baltimore, Bob Dylan’s voice is breaking through a stereo: “How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?”
Maybe somewhere in a silent church, Jesus’ voice is speaking to those who cannot see:
You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. (Matthew 13:14-15)
One day, the mind may carry with it the voice of a teary-eyed Sam Cooke:
There have been times when I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will
Read more: Still Just Blowin’ in the Wind – Part 1
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.