www.textweek.comI 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, long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh, yes it will

It’s been too hard living
But I’m afraid to die
I don’t know what’s up there beyond the sky
It’s been a long, long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh yes it will
I go to the movie, and I go downtown
Somebody keep tellin me “don’t hang around”
It’s been a long, a long time coming,
But i know a change gonna come
Oh yes it will

Then I go to my brother
I say brother help me please
But he winds up knocking me
Back down on my knees

There’s been times that I thought
I wouldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come
Oh, yes it will

– Sam Cooke (January 22, 1931 – December 11, 1964)

 

This week, Jesus tells his regular synagogue crowd “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown”, and for some reason my mind drifted to the life of Sam Cooke. Perhaps Black History month made the connection for me, which is February by the way.

 

Cooke was one of the leading figures in founding soul music in America and was a prolific songwriter and performer.  I have to admit, the song I am most familiar with is “A Change is Gonna Come”.  Click the song title to hear and see it on youtube.  This song is but one of many anthems for the civil rights movement that’s been covered by everyone from Al Green to contestants on American Idol.  I also think the lyrics are imprinted with the tremendous grief and hope Cooke suffered as he lived through the death of his son who tragically drowned in their backyard pool.

 

I thought about him because as the son of a Baptist minister, he started his career singing gospel songs.  He developed a great audience and following.  The trouble came when he started to write pop songs, which proved a huge success with white audiences too.  Cooke is credited with being one of the first artists to bring gospel and pop music together, but not everyone was a fan.

 

So sacrosanct was gospel music at the time that Cooke’s first pop songs were released under a pseudonym (remember, facebook and youtube weren’t around then so you could actually pass for someone else in those days!).

 

The gospel crowd was annoyed he started singing pop – which was how shall we put it – not heavenly music?  Pop singers got annoyed when he started writing music about racism and civil rights.  Think about Justin Bieber going from “Boyfriend” to writing a song like “Blowin’ In The Wind.”  Somehow, I think the two would attract distinctly different audiences and are written from different places in the human heart, all of which would go against the grain of mass music industry sales and wisdom.

 

I’ve heard this song many times, and its lyrics have become etched in my own heart in its conviction and hope for the day we can honestly say the kingdom has indeed come.  I’ve heard it on the radio, on TV, but nothing can compare to the time I heard it sung at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago which is coincidentally, the town Sam grew up in.

 

Trinity is probably one of the largest black congregation’s in our sister church, the United Church of Christ, south of our border.  My family stuck out pretty good in church that day – but only in my mind.  To the congregation, we were just there to worship, and there was nothing strange about that…it was Sunday after all.

 

During the middle of the service, a young man took the stage after we had heard some challenging words from Jeremiah and an incredible sermon from Rev. Otis Moss the III’s sister.  Like much of that service, from