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SLSO Songs of America | "A Change Is Gonna Come"

"A Change Is Gonna Come"

by Sam Cooke

arr. by Adam Maness

Brian Owens, vocals

The 442s

Adam Maness, guitar

Shawn Weil, violin

Michael Casimir, viola

Bjorn Ranheim, cello

Bob DeBoo, bass


Today marks 56 years since the Civil Rights Act was signed into law on July 2, 1964, following the longest continuous debate in Senate history. The landmark law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, along with unequal application of voter registration requirements, and segregation in schools, workplaces, and spaces that served the general public.

The Piece

When he first heard Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Sam Cooke was knocked sideways by its moving lyrics. Music journalist Peter Guralnick writes that Cooke “was so carried away with the message, and the fact that a white boy had written it, that…he was almost ashamed not to have written something like that himself.” His response? “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a deeply personal song about fear and doubt and faith and hope. The song was not released until after Cooke’s death, but this civil rights anthem would have deep and lasting influence.

The Place

Kiener Plaza provides a place for people to come together from all directions to reflect on the city of St. Louis. The Gateway Arch and Old Courthouse present a dramatic backdrop, the latter reminding us of St. Louis’ painful past. The Old Courthouse was once the site of slave auctions, as well as the infamous Scott v. Sandford case, in which Dred Scott, an enslaved man, unsuccessfully sued for his freedom and that of his wife and daughters in 1857.

With that dark history in full view, symbols of progress in the park become even more meaningful. The Old Courthouse, once a somber site, now provides a symbol of hope and progress to immigrants who become U.S. citizens on its grounds each year. Most notable is the bronze statue of Frankie Muse Freeman, (pictured in the SLSO video behind bassist Bob DeBoo and guitarist Adam Maness), a civil rights attorney and the first woman appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1964.


Special thanks to the St. Louis Parks Division, Kiener Plaza.

Special thanks to the Centene Charitable Foundation, the Steward Family Foundation, and World Wide Technology for their support of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.


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