The singer opened his Pilgrimage set with the 1963 single, an anthem of the civil rights movement and Number 12 on the Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 Greatest Songs.
While Timberlake didn’t elaborate on his decision to cover “A Change Is Gonna Come,” it was likely a show of solidarity with those fighting for social change and staging protests during the Trump presidency; Pilgrimage marked Timberlake’s first U.S. show since the 2016 election.
At the Global Citizen concert Saturday in New York, Stevie Wonder took a knee “for America” to support to the athletes staging similar protests following Donald Trump’s latest comments that condemned NFL players for exercising their rights.
Timberlake and his band ended their bluesy take on the Cooke song by segueing into the singer’s own “Drink You Away.”
Also during the Pilgrimage set, Timberlake reunited with country singer Chris Stapleton onstage for an extended appearance that featured songs like “Tennessee Whiskey,” “Fire Away” and “Sometimes I Cry.”