by Robert Wilkinson
Today would have been the 82nd birthday of one of the pioneers and founders of “Soul music,” Sam Cooke.
Sam Cooke (January 22, 1931 – December 11, 1964) was a gospel singer who blazed the trail for a thousand other Soul music performers. From Wikipedia:
Cooke had 30 U.S. top 40 hits between 1957 and 1964, and a further three after his death. Major hits like “You Send Me,” “A Change is Gonna Come,” “Cupid,” “Chain Gang,” “Wonderful World,” and “Twistin’ the Night Away” are some of his most popular songs. Cooke was also among the first modern black performers and composers to attend to the business side of his musical career. He founded both a record label and a publishing company as an extension of his careers as a singer and composer. He also took an active part in the American Civil Rights Movement.
On December 11, 1964, Cooke was fatally shot by the manager of the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles, CA, at the age of 33. At the time, the courts ruled that Cooke was drunk and distressed, and that the manager had killed Cooke in what was later ruled a justifiable homicide. Since that time, the circumstances of his death have been widely questioned.
I loved his music when I was young, and his death hit me hard. Between 1963 and 1970 a whole lot of famous people got shot in the US for all kinds of reasons. That affected us more than America has been willing to admit.
For your enjoyment, the silken voice of Mister Sam Cooke! I found a fair amount of performance footage, no small feat given he was big before there was widespread videotaping of music acts.
From 1958, Sam Cooke on the Arthur Murray Dance Party singing “Mary Lou”
From 1963, Sam Cooke in a live tv performance of “Twistin’ the Night Away”
Here’s Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson in a live performance of “Cha Cha Cha”
From another time when we marched and sang and protested and came together for a world without war, Sam in a live performance of Bob Dylan’s timeless tune “Blowin’ In The Wind”
From here on, it’s the original studio recordings! Between the ones I've already given you, and some to come, some of these are among the most danceable tunes every recorded!
The original studio version of this song made it to #2 on the charts! Here’s Sam singing "Chain Gang"
The tune Otis made into a hit a few years later done by the original! Sam Cooke doing "Shake"
We’ll close this tribute with the original studio version of one of the greatest songs to come out of the American Civil Rights Movement, “A Change Is Gonna Come.” If you don't hear one other song today, this one is for the ages!
For a final moment, here’s a great 1 minute clip of Sam and the Great Muhammad Ali live doing an a cappella duet of “The Gang’s All Here”
Happy RIP birthday, Sam. It seems LA was a tough gig back in the 60s, especially if you were successful, and if you crossed the wrong people, you wound up very dead very fast. It would seem your death wasn’t accidental, but it’s now ancient history. You gave us great tunes while you were alive, and we can only wish you had been around longer. RIP, number one Soul brother.
© Copyright 2013 Robert Wilkinson