The Real Meaning Behind Leslie Odom Jr.’s Speak Now

Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr. recently made waves when he played Sam Cooke in One Night in Miami (via IMDb). The film, which tells the fictional story of a night shared by Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay), Malcolm X, Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke, features a brand new song that Odom composed specifically for the movie’s score.

The song is called “Speak Now,” and its message is clear. As Soul Bounce writes, the song “calls us to action on the chorus by asking us to raise our voices as we listen to those around us.” The publication also notes that with lyrics like “Listen, listen / To the message of hope in the whispers of ghosts / Listen, listen / For the children will grow on the seeds that we sow,” Odom definitely calls to mind Sam Cooke’s own legendary hit, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

Odom released his own statement about the film and its signature song. “The movie is so special to me. Sam Cooke is dear to us all. We tried to hide that in the song we wrote” (via Rolling Stone). Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, he noted that the song is about making the most of the time we have: “Listen, your time is precious and you’re not guaranteed a lot of it, so speak right now in this moment. Use your life, use everything that you are given, to make a change and to make a difference right in this moment.”

Leslie Odom Jr. actually wrote four songs for the film

Odom told Entertainment Weekly that writing at least one song for One Night In Miami was always part of the plan. As he explained, the producers “were always very interested in whomever was cast as Sam [being] the person that would write the song for the movie. That they would take that experience of Sam and then [write a song]. Because the task was so great, we wrote four different songs.” The team ended up choosing “Speak Now” as the standout song of those four.

Odom also explained that he intentionally recorded the song well after he had finished filming in hopes that it would sound more like himself and less like Sam Cooke. He had poured himself into sounding as much sounding like sam Cooke while filming, and it was important “to make sure that enough time had passed. That Sam had kind of left me, and I was feeling like myself again, so that this could be what sounds like me hopefully.”

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