Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Otis Redding - "A Change Is Gonna Come"

After posting Sam Cooke's original version of this song earlier in the week, I started to encounter murmurings of dissent. These murmurings quickly grew into an unignorable din of complaint and outrage: why had I posted the Cooke version when there exists a "much better" Otis Redding version? My girlfriend left me and my parents disowned me (then adopted my girlfriend (ouch!)).


If I had never heard either song and you said to me,"Hey Jordan, it's good to see you. You look good. There's this song that both Sam Cooke and Otis Redding perform called "A Change is Gonna Come." The Cooke version is dominated by soaring strings, whereas the Redding version is driven by hard hitting horns with a healthy dose of tight piano and tremolo guitar interplay. Which do you think you'd like better?" I would pick the Redding version.

But I don't think I'd be right.

Redding is wounded and raw, his performance more visceral than Cooke's. But he leaves me wondering if the only reason that a change is gonna come is that it can't possibly get any worse. Redding's wails and screams connote anguish, but what Cooke expresses in his more restrained, thoughtful performance is the human capacity for perseverance, hope and exceptional dignity.

Both are awesome, though. So, whatever. [Buy]


Birds of America - "The Eyes of Our Youth Are Evil"

Shining through the low fidelity of this recording is the fun that can be had in making music. Not fun that diminishes the seriousness of the music, but fun that comes from discovering the perfect bed of shuffling hand-clap and shaker percussion. The fun of listening to an already good song over and over again until you realize that all it needs to make it a million times better is the long tone of a saxophone. The fun of finding the ultimately complimentary setting on an old keyboard, running it through a delay and letting it echo. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at May 7, 2005 12:00 AM

There's a live Al Green version which is, ahem, perhaps even better. Heh.

Posted by brittle-lemon at May 7, 2005 2:39 AM

Sam Cooke's is better. He died shortly after the recording. It also sits better in history (early '60s civil rights era); it is more a product of its author and period then Otis Redding's cover.

Posted by Ieinz at May 7, 2005 4:53 PM

that reminds me... do a post on some good rock songs with clapping -- an untirely underrated effect.

Posted by yoni at May 7, 2005 5:26 PM

i love otis, but can't beat the original...

Posted by Anonymous at May 7, 2005 9:09 PM

This Birds of America song is splendid! It's breezy and oceanic, but cozy and fireplace-y at the same time. Mmmmm...yes.


Posted by Aurora at May 8, 2005 1:34 AM

The Birds of America song -is- great - it's exactly the sort of tune that I'd love to see made with some mega-huge big-studio-sound producer, Trevor Horn or someone, to make the handclaps like god's handclaps, the singsong like a mouth that's opened up in the side of your heart.

And yeah, the Sam Cooke one kills this ebullient Otis version.

Posted by Sean at May 8, 2005 11:27 AM

Thanks so much for sharing your opinion on the Redding vs. Cooke controversy that has been plaguing my mind for months now. Your thoughts are my thoughts exactly. Cooke gives an undoubtedly more soulful performance.

Posted by Whitney at May 8, 2005 4:24 PM

I love that this is a debate which weighs heavily on (many) peoples' minds. Yay music.

Posted by Sean at May 8, 2005 4:25 PM

Sam's is better IMO. No comparison.

Posted by Tuwa at May 9, 2005 8:35 PM

i've thought for a while now that the cooke version of this song is probably the greatest soul song of all time.

Posted by jt at May 10, 2005 1:29 PM

There is a early/mid-90's Terence Trent D'arby version of "Change is Gonna Come" that is far worse than both Sam and Otis.

Sam's is the best by the way - just goosebumps.

Posted by Erik at May 10, 2005 9:52 PM

Sam Cooke's is ridiculously more enjoyable.

Posted by andrew at May 11, 2005 8:57 PM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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