‘A Change Is Gonna Come,’ Jon Bon Jovi and Bettye LaVette

Bettye LaVette and Jon Bon Jovi sing "A Change Is Gonna Come" together in 2009, to honor President Obama's first inauguration.

Bettye LaVette and Jon Bon Jovi sing “A Change Is Gonna Come” together in 2009, to celebrate President Obama’s first inauguration.

Whatever your political affiliation, you had to agree it was a momentous occasion: the inauguration of the country’s first African-American president. To help celebrate it, a free event, “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration,” was mounted on Jan. 18, 2009 — two days before the inauguration — at the Lincoln Memorial, with some 400,000 people attending and many more watching on television. Performers included Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger, Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder, Garth Brooks, Josh Groban and James Taylor; Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah and others read historical passages.

One of the highlights was a deeply emotional duet on Sam Cooke’s Civil Rights Era anthem, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” by two New Jerseyans, Jon Bon Jovi and Bettye LaVette. (A Michigan native who started performing in the Civil Rights Era herself, LaVette has experienced a remarkable career resurgence since moving to West Orange in 2003.)

Watch their performance below, and marvel at how relaxed they both seem, singing in public with each other for the first time, at such a meaningful event, with so many people watching.

New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.

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