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A change is gonna come | the perfect song for our times?

A change is gonna come | the perfect song for our times?

Hope you’re well friends. It’s Andy here.

I’ve recently been asked to do that social media chain thing – 10 albums that influenced your life, no description etc etc. Being the kind of person that I am, I straight up ignored the rules that say not to include any description, not to explain why and so on. I want to tell people why that particular album was so important to me (the one that was my favourite when I broke my neck when I was 18 for example). That does mean that sometimes I don’t get around to posting every day because it takes a bit more time to think and compose. But everything in good time!

Yellow Moon

As part of this process, I was reminded of an album that was pretty important to me as a 16 year old. Yellow Moon by the Neville Brothers is a relatively unknown album the from the late 80s – even it even sounded a bit early 90s in places. The lead singer Aaron Neville has a very unique falsetto voice that puts the Bee Gees to shame, and his brothers Art, Charles, Ivan and Cyril provide perfect backing vocals over the rhythm they all provide. And the whole album feels like it has been touched by genius – as you might expect being produced by Daniel Lanois, with a little help from Brian Eno.

Amongst many of the stunning covers on the album, the Sam Cooke song “A Change is Gonna Come’ is a tour de force. Written by Cooke in 1964 against a backdrop of segregation and apartheid, and apparently inspired by Dylan’s blowin’ in the wind, the lyrics of the song look forward to a significant change in how people respect each other as people (link to video and lyrics at end of article).

The song was inspired by various personal events in Cooke’s life, most prominently an event in which he and his entourage were turned away from a whites-only motel in Louisiana. Cooke felt compelled to write a song that spoke to his struggle and of those around him, and that pertained to the Civil Rights Movement and African Americans. The song contains the refrain, “It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.”

Sam Cooke was sadly murdered at the young age of 33 by a motel owner at a motel he was staying in mysterious circumstances, and there are many theories as to why he was shot if you’ve got the time to research them – from label infighting, to arguments over women and drugs, to the government killing him. But we’ll probably never know the truth.

Times have changed massively since the 60’s of course. And Cooke would probably be surprised if he could see the world now. Whilst there have been massive steps forwards in equal rights, he would probably be somewhat dumbfounded to see a racist and bigot in power in the White House. A bigot whose words have the power to (and possibly already have) knocked the civil rights movement back decades.

But he would also be surprised to see how the lyrics, although written for a very different time and reason, resonate very strongly right now, during the Coronavirus outbreak. In fact, almost every single paragraph has meaning in 2020.

“Just like the river I’ve been running ever since”.

Other than the last two weeks, where this virus has physically forced us to down tools and take a bit of time out with our immediate family, has there been a time when you haven’t felt like you’ve been constantly running.

Running for that next coffee from Costa, from meeting to meeting. From work to school pick up. From a sneaky paddle to work? And right now, we’ve been forced to stop running. And doesn’t that just feel quite nice, like part of the world we’d like to see after COVID19? Obviously it’s not true for everyone; some people are working harder than they’ve ever worked in their lives, and to those people, we truly salute you. And we recognise that not everyone’s experience is the same. We feel extremely lucky to live on the outskirts of a small town, with a big enough garden for barbecues, camping and trampoling.

It’s a lot more difficult to relax in the way we’ve been able to if you’re stuck in a tower block in central London, with your local park closed, and with the police moving everyone on who dares to sit on a bench for 5 minutes.

“it’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die”.

How relevant does that feel right now? The fear of death frames some people’s response to this pandemic more than others. Sometimes it’s those who are broaching the reality of their mortality for the first time who seem to have the strongest opinions about how strictly one follows the lockdown guidance. Whereas some of a grander age who have already accepted their mortality, and who, according to government guidance should be fully self isolating, are those who are happy to go shopping daily for a loaf of bread. For those, enjoying what’s left of their life might be more important than preserving it for as long as possible. What’s most important for all of us, is to remember that different individuals have different emotional needs, and that metaphorically pointing fingers on social media achieves nothing but inciting division and hatred in the long run.

“Then I go to my brother and I say, “Brother, help me please”
But he winds up knockin’ me back down on my knees”

There are soooo many heart warming stories about how people are supporting others and helping their communities. And just look at how the community has got behind Major Tom for example…. But contrast this with the vitriol poured over social media when a member of our sup community recently asked for some advice about whether they can paddle during times of lockdown. The advice is now reasonably clear (finally), with the RNLI imploring every water user not to partake in watertime to reduce the potential for accident and impact on emergency services. But at the time the question was asked, the government guidance was very vague, and probably deliberately so.

And the way that people knocked down different interpretations was simply shameful.

Q. l live next to a river and paddling is my daily exercise.

A. What’s so ****Ing difficult to understand about #staythe****athome.

The real answer (at the time, things have changed now!) should have been something like “it really isn’t clear. The government advice is that you can do one form of exercise a day. The Canal and River Trust and Environment Agency haven’t closed their waters, and British Canoeing and Surfing England are still actively encouraging watersports as a form of physical exercise and mental recuperation. Furthermore, the health secretary has made it clear that any form of exercise is acceptable, not just running, cycling and walking. However, many people and organisations, including the RNLI have asked people to be careful to make sure you don’t put any more pressure on emergency services and the NHS that are going to be under severe pressure in the near future. On this basis, many people have chosen not to paddle, and you might incur the wrath of those people who are choosing not to paddle for the good of everyone. And what you think to be safe paddling for you, might not be for everyone. And there is a real risk that people who don’t have your experience will see you, think that paddling is safe, and get themselves into trouble.”

Of course, it’s all changed now with almost every organisation, including those above now agreeing that now isn’t the time to be paddling, and asking all paddlers and watersports enthusiasts to stay off the water. The waves and water will still be there in a few weeks time. But that initial response from some, refusing to accept that there were alternative points of view was shocking and hugely disappointing. Even if you disagree with a point of view, there are better ways to respond that just simply knocking the person down.

In times like these we should be standing together no matter how deep our differences of opinion run. And taking time to thoughtfully reply to honest questions and points is beholden on all of us. Resorting to insults should be left to the playground.

“There’ve been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long. But now I think I’m able to carry on.”

At the start of the lockdown, I was anxious. Like many of you, I didn’t know how long I’d be able to keep it up without going stir crazy. Outdoor stuff is what our family does. And the idea that we might be like caged animals in our house filled me with dread. The outdoors is our mental health release, and I really didn’t know how we would deal with life without that regular escape to blue and green places.

But we’ve got used to it. Actually scrap that, we’ve more than got used to it. We love being able to hear the birdsong without the road traffic every morning. We’ve heard woodpeckers on our bike rides almost every day for two weeks now. We’ve found new bike routes to get to see our local rivers, and we’ve discovered that there is so much more right on our doorstep. We’ve uncovered new copses and coverts, and watched the spring flowers unfurl – Anenomes, Bluebells and Celendines right on our doorstep. Most years we might have driven to a woodlands to watch this happening. But it’s right here on our doorstep. Who knew?

We’ve spoken to more people in our local community more often, and for longer, than we have before. Because lots of people have more time. And are willing to talk. And I have absolutely proved that I need to stop driving so much. Microsoft Teams, Zoom and others have proved (to me at least), that our reliance on the car/van is over. We can massively reduce our miles but still maintain the same level of service for customers. And hopefully the same is true for those irresponsible companies that fly all over the world in the name of business.

Air quality is better all around the world, the amount of carbon dioxide being emitted has dropped significantly. And we’re eaten better quality food than we ever have – because we’re buying even more locally sourced food that we did before, and supporting more local businesses. And have more time to prepare it.

Of course, and as said above, we recognise that not everyone is as lucky as we are. And if truth be told, we’re exhibiting classic signs of survivor syndrome because we feel guilty almost every day because we’re so lucky!

But that notwithstanding, not only am I now more comfortable than I was three weeks ago that I can just carry on. It goes way beyond that. I think we can all carry on. We can all learn lessons from this. And it seems that I’m not alone. So many people we speak to feel the same – and a recent poll shows only 9% of us want life to return to ‘normal’ after COVID19 is under control. We just need to make it happen!

So let’s not put the unsustainable world back in place as an exact facsimile of the pre-COVID19 world. Don’t mourn the fact that we won’t return to normal after this. Celebrate it. A change for the better. The planet definitely is, so why shouldn’t we?

A change is gonna come – Neville Brothers


“A Change Is Gonna Come” words and music by Sam Cooke

I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh, and just like the river I’ve been running ever since

It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes, it will

It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die
‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there beyond the sky

It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes, it will

I go to the movie and I go downtown
Somebody keep telling me don’t hang around

It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes, it will

Then I go to my brother
And I say, “Brother, help me please”
But he winds up knockin’ me
Back down on my knees

There’ve been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on

It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes, it will

1 thought on “A change is gonna come | the perfect song for our times?

  1. Extremely well put together Andrew. Like you i and mine are truly blessed to have a garden and enough to get by. Feel for those who are struggling financially and can totally understand their frustration. The government has a big call to make very soon between saving lives and saving the economy . Most of the population have responded the right way and should be applauded but i am afraid to say many questions need to be addressed . ie Peak was on the 8th April according to two experts on world service today. Was the total lockdown avoidable ? . I sincerely hope the world learn from these days and adopt a different stance. Thank you for putting this together. Pip.

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