I'm enchanted that our new president chose to cite -- or "sample" as they say in the world of pop music -- one of my favorite, and one of the most important of the songs of the 1960s. Here's the borrowed sentiment, delivered in Chicago on November 4, just after Obama cleared the electoral hurdle: "It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America." The big O's citation is to the refrain of Sam Cooke's great anthem, "A Change is Gonna Come": "It's been a long time coming/ But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will."
Those who know their Sam Cooke will appreciate Obama's sentence. To the Cooke-innocent, the "change" is a new administration and new policies. To the Cooke-knowledgeable, the "change" to which Obama refers is a tectonic shift in American racial politics.
So I'm reproducing Sam Cooke's lyric right here. If you're one of my coevals, you probably know the song by heart. If you don't know it, you should. If you're curious, you can see and hear Sam and Otis Redding and a host of others sing the song on You Tube. Here's the lyric. It's one great, inspiring song.
"I was born by the river in a little tent
And just like the river I've been running ever since.
It's been a long time coming.
But I know a change is gonna come.
It's been too hard living, and I'm afraid to die.
I don't know what's up there, beyond the sky.
I go to the movie and I go downtown
Somebody keep telling me, don't hang around.
I go to my brother, I say help me please,
But he winds up knocking me down on my bended knees.
There's been times that I thought I couldn't last long,
But now I think I'm able to carry on.
It's been a long time coming,
But I know a change is gonna come, o yes it will."
Talk about the ability to say a lot in a little. O yeah!