‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ Takes On New Meaning At Inaugural Concert

Sam Cooke's civil-rights classic is performed by Jon Bon Jovi, Bettye LaVette at 'We Are One' event.

At the [url id="http://newsroom.mtv.com/2009/01/18/onstage-with-bruce-springsteen-and-bono-during-we-are-one-rehearsals/"]“We Are One” inaugural concert[/url] on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Sunday afternoon (January 18), [artist id="1044"]Jon Bon Jovi[/artist] and soul singer Bettye LaVette sang a duet of [artist id="4878"]Sam Cooke’s[/artist] seminal civil-rights movement song, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” originally released in 1964, shortly after the soul singer’s death.

The oft-covered song was written as a response to Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” according to Stephen D. Winick, writer and editor at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Cooke was very moved by Dylan’s now-famous missive about the obvious changes that America was going through in the early 1960s. (Read Winick’s analysis of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” performance for the concert.)

“['A Change Is Gonna Come'] is a great piece of songwriting which was done in the early 1960s,” Winick told MTV News. “And again, like [url id="http://www.mtv.com/videos/news/333020/bruce-springsteen-performs-the-rising-at-the-we-are-one-inaugural-concert.jhtml"]Springsteen’s ‘The Rising,’[/url] it goes back to gospel roots and it’s talking about that common person’s experience, especially the black experience and how that changed radically.”

At the heart of the song lies an honest account of the emotions people went through during the civil-rights era. “It’s a beautiful statement of the conditions in which people lived and … the inevitability of change. It is a great statement,” he said.

On the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration, the song is just as powerful today as it was nearly 35 years ago. “It’s regarded as an important recording, and so much so to the Library of Congress that it was one of the 2007 picks for the National Recording Registry,” Winick added.

“Be the Change: Live From the Inaugural” will air live on MTV on Tuesday, January 20, at 10 p.m. ET/PT. MTV News will have wall-to-wall coverage of the event and of the scenes in Washington, D.C., New Orleans and Kenya in the days leading up to the event and in the days that follow.