Jennifer Hudson and the Democratic party both have rich — but until now separate — histories with Sam Cooke’s classic song “A Change is Gonna Come.” The three came together at the close of the third evening of the 2020 Democratic National Convention Wednesday night with a spectacular performance by Hudson that took place under the tiffany dome at the Harold Washington Cultural Center in Hudson’s hometown of Chicago.
There were some big Aretha Franklin tie-ins in the performance by the woman who is about to be seen playing Franklin on film: Not only was she was singing “the Aretha version” of the song, she was being accompanied by two pianists: Fred Nelson, Franklin’s conductor, and Richard Gibbs, the soul queen’s piano player for many years. Reginald Foster rounded out her backing trio on soprano sax.
Hudson’s taped rendition was seen immediately following Kamala Harris’ historic acceptance speech as the first woman of color to be nominated by a major party for vice president. Or not seen, as many networks cut it off to throw to the pundits. But if Brian Williams or Anderson Cooper made you miss it, you can still catch it here.
Hudson previously got a lot of social media traction for delivering a knockout version of it at the 2019 AFI Awards, singing it for honoree Denzel Washington. (The song played a key role in one of Washington’s films, “Malcolm X.”) Most fans, though, are likely to think this one tops it.
Also of note: the Cultural Center in Chicago is the first place Hudson ever performed for Barack Obama.
Hudson had a role in the 2008 Democratic convention, where she sang “The Star Spangled Banner” the year Obama accepted his nomination.
Meanwhile, Obama cited the lyrics of “A Change is Gonna Come” in his victory speech after winning the election. At his inauguration months later, Bettye LaVette and Jon Bon Jovi sang the Cooke song as a duet.
It’s not Hudson’s first time singing for Joe Biden as a candidate: She sang at a virtual fundraiser for him in June, along with other stars like Barbra Streisand, John Legend and Andra Day.