Tuesday, 28 May 2024

CyberSoulMan: Change

T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.



It’s been a long, a long time coming

But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will

A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke, circa December 1964

The great Sam Cooke sang those poignant words to us, seemingly from the portals of heaven (or hell, depending on your perspective at the time). You see, the song was released by RCA Victor Records just mere weeks after “The Man Who Invented Soul” was tragically shot to death in a seedy motel in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. (The legacy of the life and death of Cooke is a great American mystery about which volumes have been written, none of which completely explain it. Perhaps we will discuss it in a later column.)

At the time of its release “Change” only became a moderate, posthumous hit for Cooke. As the Civil Rights Movement was propelled forward though, the song became an anthem for the movement. Indeed, President Elect Obama stated to his supporters in Chicago after winning the election, “It's been a long time coming, but tonight, change has come to America.”

As we begin this new era in the political evolution of humanity, I am reminded of some of the things I have seen in my lifetime.

I remember attending Washington Elementary School in Oakland when John F. Kennedy was slated to give the commencement address at the University Of California at Berkeley in the year 1962.

Our teachers at Washington found out that President Kennedy’s motorcade would be traveling on Shattuck Avenue past our school. We gleefully and dutifully prepared placards and signs in anxious anticipation of our beloved president seeing us seeing him.

When the big moment was upon us, the whole school stood at erect, rapt attention as we spied the flashing red lights of the motorcade approach, about a mile away. As the motorcade got closer, it became obvious that they were moving pretty fast. So fast in fact that all we got was a glimpse of a shadow in the limo that must’ve been our president. We were waving and cheering but he had his back to the window.

Those Oakland cops had that motorcade speeding at about 50 miles per hour in a school zone! It seemed to be out of the president’s hands. Some of us were disappointed yet, I imagine some of us were glad to be out of school.

Eight months later, I was in what was then called junior high school, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I remember walking home from school with my peers. We were really hoping that whoever did it wasn’t African-American. I guess our perception was that we were already in enough trouble by virtue of our race.

Then, in seeming rapid succession, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy all became victims of the assassin’s bullet. Malcolm X spoke of self-determination for the American negro before his pilgrimage to Mecca, yet became convinced after visiting the Holy Land that, yes, all races could live together.

Martin Luther King was a spokesman for all oppressed and poor people through nonviolent social change. Robert Kennedy, who visited East Oakland shortly before his untimely death, uncannily predicted a black president by 2008.

In the meantime the machinery that is American – no cross that out – global politics, has paralyzed the American – cross that word out again – global economy primarily along class lines. It seems to be afflicting the world, poor people under the wealthy, weighty boot of the rich. And the media hands us the narcotic, sleight of hand, smoke and mirrors of television and the over-stimulus of Hollywood.

Are we making sense of it yet? Or is it making cents out of us? Yeah, God bless America all right. Humph! God is also big enough to bless the whole world. That’s what I’m counting on.

As Jimi Hendrix stated to the faithful at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East on New Year’s Day 1970, shortly before he was vaporized,

“Yes, it has been a long time, hasn’t it?

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts!

* * * * *

Upcoming cool performances:

  • Mighty Mike Schermer at the Blue Wing Salon and Café’s Blue Monday on Monday Jan. 19, at 6:30 p.m.

  • Morris Day and The Time at Cache Creek Casino on Saturday, Feb. 14, at 8 p.m.

* * * * *

Correction from last week’s blog

Yes, the CyberSoulMan will interview Teeny Tucker on Blue Monday at KPFZ 88.1 FM on Monday Jan. 26, at 8 a.m. The rebroadcast of the interview will be streamed over the Internet on Tuesday Feb. 3, at 3 p.m. on www.theworldofblues.com, In The Blues Spot.

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at www.teewatts.biz.


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