Werner believes the crooner and songwriter was equally astute at marketing a black political agenda. Cooke refused to play segregated venues, fought injustices within the music industry and established his own publishing and recording firms. His timeless hit “A Change Is Gonna Come” was recorded in 1964, the year the Civil Rights Act was signed. “It is performed in an unabashedly gospel style, and its content may be interpreted as a reflection of Cooke’s social consciousness and his expression of faith,” says musicologist Portia Maultsby.
Brown’s emphasis on rhythm was as enthralling as his showmanship and well-rehearsed band. “He took the center of the music away from melody and harmony and put it dead in the middle of the rhythm,” says Werner. “Call and response is the basic principle in African-American music and James Brown’s audiences always responded to his call.”