The single peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 4 on the Cash Box Top 100 charts in the summer of 1996. It also spent 13 weeks at No. 1 on the adult contemporary chart and remained on that chart for over a year and a half (80 weeks), a feat which was extraordinarily rare at the time. Since then, however, certain songs have remained on the AC chart for extended periods of time, prompting the eventual creation of an Adult Contemporary recurrent chart for songs that have stayed on the chart for many weeks and fallen below a certain threshold. "Change the World" is ranked as the 19th biggest hit of 1996.
Although "Change the World" is best known by Eric Clapton's unplugged acoustic version, an electric performance of the song was featured on Babyface's 1997 live album, Babyface MTV Unplugged NYC, with Clapton on co-lead vocals and electric guitar (Babyface served as the song's producer).
In the song, the performer expresses his desire to communicate his love to an unnamed woman. This love, he fears, will go unrequited without a drastic change in his life.
Previous to the release of Clapton's hit version, the song was recorded by country artist, Wynonna Judd, for her February 1996 album entitled Revelations. Judd, however, did not release her version as a single despite the popularity of Clapton's release.
Saxophonist Alto Reed covered the song for his debut album Cool Breeze in 1997. The group Fourte! from the Philippines also covered this song on their TV guest spots. Remixed Eurodance versions of the song have appeared on the Dancemania series albums, including the 2000 compilation Dancemania SPEED 4 where an uptempo Eurodance remix of the song by CJ Crew and Blueman is listed. In 2002, saxophonist Gerald Albright covered the song off the album Groovology. In 2004, the song was covered by British musical theatre icon Elaine Paige as part of the new recordings on her "Best of" album, entitled Centre Stage. In their 15th single "Wings of Words", J-pop group CHEMISTRY did their rendition of the song.