'One Night in Miami': The true story behind Sam Cooke's stirring 'A Change is Gonna Come' - USA TODAY
Jan 16, 2021 1 min, 57 secs

Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" plays an important role in Amazon's "One Night in Miami," now streaming.

chats with USA TODAY's Patrick Ryan about his portrayal of Sam Cooke in Regina King's "One Night in Miami.".

The civil rights-era drama (now streaming on Amazon Prime) depicts a fictionalized meeting between four Black legends – Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) – as they debate issues of activism and art in a Miami motel room. .

The film culminates in a tearful performance of Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" in February 1964, intercut with scenes of Malcolm and his family escaping their burning house after a firebomb attack, and Cassius changing his name to Muhammad Ali upon joining the Nation of Islam.

finds his voice as Sam Cooke in 'One Night in Miami'.

"He covers the song and records his own version (in 1964), but he can't quite shake the little bit of shame that he didn't write a song like that.".

But it was an experience that October – when Cooke and his entourage were turned away from a whites-only Holiday Inn in Shreveport, Louisiana, despite having reservations – that is said to have "directly triggered" him to write "A Change is Gonna Come," says Peter Guralnick, author of "Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke." .

Cooke said the lyrics to "A Change is Gonna Come" came to him in a dream just after Christmas of 1963, and he recorded the song that January.

"It was obvious to everyone how excited he was about the song, how proud he was of it – but it seemed like he was unsettled by it, too," Guralnick says.

He was one of the most popular pop singers of his day, which is another reason why I think it's such a notable song," says Dr

as Sam Cooke in "One Night in Miami." (Photo: Patti Perret)

Nearly 60 years after Cooke recorded the song, "Change" is as relevant and powerful as it was then, particularly in light of last summer's Black Lives Matter protests and the attack on the U.S

He's saying 'a change is gonna come,' although his voice and the way it trembles suggests that maybe he's not quite as sure as he is on paper

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