Oh, Sam Cooke. Way back when I started this blog, I had a series of posts titled Lost Ones. I more or less abandoned the endeavor in 2007. The premise of the series was to remember black celebrities who lost their lives due to tragic means, kind of a Hollywood Babylon for people of color.
Here’s why I stopped — one night I found myself staying up until 3 in the morning, knowing I had work the next day, crying and listening to the music of the legendary Sam Cooke.
His entry ached too much to write.
Old soul music will make me emo like that. Sam Cooke makes me emo like that. Because his death was so senseless and strange, awful and undeserved.
On January 12, 48 years ago, Sam Cooke took the stage at the Harlem Square Club in Overtown, Miami. This wasn’t a slick and polished crooner. This was a soul singer, a man with grit in his voice and ardor in his intent. This was Sam Cooke at his sexiest.
There’s an urgency to his performance, and you can tell the audience was just eating it all up. His voice is rough and passionate on Nothing Can Change This Love.
If you close your eyes, you can almost see the girls in the audience swaying and swooning.
People ask me sometimes, what music are you listening to lately – and it makes me feel like an old lady when I tell them. But honestly, I stay stuck on artists like Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong. It gets no better than the classics.
Sam Cooke laid the foundation for all other singers to follow. If you ask me, nobody has ever truly filled his shoes. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. In the incredible PBS documentary Sam Cooke: Crossing Over, his contemporaries like Smokey Robinson and Lou Rawls echo the sentiment.
If you’ve BEEN a fan, you already know. If you’re young and new to the music of Sam Cooke, do yourself a favor and check out Live at the Harlem Square Club 1963. If you prefer your Sam Cooke sweet and studio slick, Portrait of a Legend is the way to go.
What’s your favorite Sam Cooke song?