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
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.