Leah Greenblatt
January 22, 2009 AT 06:21 AM EST

Sam Cooke never lived to watch Barack Obama take office, let alone see his own 1964 civil-rights soul classic “A Change Is Gonna Come” become the unofficial anthem of the campaign — the singer was shot and killed by an L.A. hotel proprietress in 1963, weeks before the song hit the charts.

But in a nice little bit of cosmic timing, the man behind that song, and 29 other  Top 40 hits, including “You Send Me” and “Bring It On Home to Me,” would have turned 78 tomorrow. Over the years, “Change” has been covered by Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, the Fugees, the Band, and Otis Redding, among countless others; this past weekend, Betty Lavette and Jon Bon Jovi performed it for Obama at the Lincoln Memorial. Unfortunately, there’s no good audio clip available on YouTube, but if you’ve got 99 cents, get it on iTunes — or better yet, spend $11.99 and treat yourself to the entire remastered 30-track collection Sam Cooke: Portrait of a Legend 1951-1964; he’s worth it.

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