On this week’s Drunk History, Derek Waters welcomes Brian Tyree Henry—star of Atlanta, MVP of the new Child’s Play movie, and generally charming human being—to the couch to drunkenly retell the story of how soul legend Sam Cooke wrote “A Change Is Gonna Come.” (You could easily get more wasted than Henry if you took a drink every time he mentions the song’s title, which is a lot.) With an assist from Drunk History fave Amber Ruffin (playing Cooke’s “amazing wife” Barbara), Henry slurs his way through this pivotal moment in Cooke’s career, which was—as he later explains—sadly overshadowed by The Beatles’ iconic appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. The story begins in 1963 (“the era of fuckery for black people in this country,” Henry notes), when Cooke hears Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind,” whips out his ukulele (much to Waters’ astonishment), and gets to work on what became a Civil Rights anthem. As Henry tells it, Cooke’s reaction to hearing the Dylan track went a little something like, “This song is dope, first of all—but this white dude is singing about everything that me as a black man is feeling going through this bullshit. I have to believe I can do better than that.”
Henry caps off Cooke’s story by recounting how the singer was tragically shot and killed by a motel clerk, thus never getting to witness how important his song became to the Civil Rights movement. Despite the sad conclusion, Henry’s contribution to Drunk History is hilarious, particularly when he gets going on the finer points of quality potato salad.