Sign o the times: at last AND change gonna come...

Two of the most popular songs from last week's inauguration of Barrack Obama - "At Last" and "Change Is Gonna Come" - hail from another era but pack a ton of contemporary meaning. Who could fail to grasp the life-changing significance of seeing our first African American presidential couple embrace and dance to Etta James' sexy lament of waiting? This is a song rich in symbolism - it oozes sensuality, evokes history and finally resolves in ecstatic contentment - much like Michelle Obama's smile itself: smart, sassy and satisfied.

And what a story exists in the music and history that we have lived between Etta James and Beyonce! Both are true R and B divas who had to pay their dues - Etta James through the early days of "race records," the checkered reality of moving through Chicago Chess records, heroin addiction and the emerging civil rights movement; Beyonce as the talented hottie of Destiny's Child who broke through type casting into acting and a solo career in the age of Obama.

Then there was the resurrection of Sam Cooke's last record, "Change Is Gonna Come" that Jon Bon Jovi and Bettye LaVette shared at the feet of the Lincoln Memorial. Cooke's story is one of the saddest in all of rock and soul history: a talented and insecure gospel singer from Clarksdale, MS, Sam Cooke stepped out of the world of segregation to create cross over hits in the 50s and 60s like "You Send Me," "Bring It on Home to Me" and "Wonderful World." After hearing Bob Dylan sing "Blowin' in the Wind," however, Cooke said, "How can a white boy sing something like that?" His response was "A Change Is Gonna Come," a soulful black reply to the protest genre of the day. Sadly, Cooke never lived to see this song take on its historic significance as he was murdered in a hotel in Los Angeles in what is still a highly disputed case of manipulation and deceit.

Nevertheless, his song became a true anthem: it was played at the funeral of Malcolm X, Spike Lee revived it years later in his movie version of the life of Malcolm X and the hip hop culture continues to sample it in awe and respect. So, it is only appropriate that in anticipation of the inauguration of our truly radical Black president, Sam Cooke's anthem would be revived.

And man did these two COOK on this song... totally smokin' with a little blue eyed soul, too!


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