The words to this song have always resonated with me and I’ve learned recently that the writing of this song was inspired in part in my adopted home town, Durham, North Carolina.
Sam Cooke played a concert here in May of 1963. After his performance, he stopped to talk to some Civil Rights activists and sit-in demonstrators here. After talking to them, he returned to his bus and penned the first draft of this song and then tucked it into his notebook.
Mr. Cooke recorded it in the final weeks of that year but it wasn’t prevalently released until after his death in 1964. It became an anthem for the Civil Right Movement of the 1960s.
Sam Cooke, for many of my generation, was our introduction to Soul music and a much more diverse world than where we grew up.
Courtesy of YouTube, below are videos of Sam Cooke’s version, followed by a contemporary version by Seal: