Sam Cooke, The Way He Was

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.

Sam Cooke

His entry ached too much to write.

Sam Cooke RCA Studios

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.

Sam Cooke at the Harlem Square Club

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.

Live at the Harlem Square Club 1963 is regarded as one of the best albums by Sam Cooke. Here’s a taste of why.

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?

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Comments

  1. Thanks, ‘Bella, for this one! I’m on YT now listening to the playlist of his music. (Click his name right under one of the vids and you’ll get a page with about 100 videos to see/hear.)

    I’ve listened to him off and on but the older I get the more I appreciate him and other music like it. The older I get the older I get. ;)

  2. There are so many I dont even know where to begin

  3. There are so many don’t know where to begin.

    Working on the Chain Gang
    Saturday Night
    The ever popular – Change gone come
    ………

    But you know I understand your love for the classics that raw edgey emotion gets you right in the gut. I can think of many songs that were my go to songs for different times in my life.

    The Supremes can’t hurry love got me through some of the lonelier times in my life..lemme tell ya. I have an extensive collection of oldies but goodies. And I have noticed time always sends you someone who is old soul reincarnate, like the way Mary J Blige channels Aretha Franklin to me and Jahiem reminded me very much of Sam Cooke (his voice) so does Raheem DeVaughn

  4. I do love me some Sam Cooke. I mean just you talking about him make the hairs on my arm stand up. Gonna go ahead and be mainstream and say my favorite Sam Cooke song is change gon’ come. That song does it to me for so many reasons. That’s the song that I hear when I get weary and feel overwhelmed with life in general. That song does it to me.

    I can’t say I’m up on Sam Cooke the way you are, but you’ve given me something to do this weekend. Thanks bella!

  5. Thanks for reminding everybody about the timeless Sam Cooke. He was truly in class all by himself. My fav is the A Change is Gonna Come and Frankie and Johnny. Oh yeah and She Was Only Sixteen.

  6. Stephanie says:

    Hey Bellla, I am right there with you, everything you said was so on point, Sam Cooke is one of my absolute favorite artist, and such a tragic lost, but his contribution to soul music will always live on. I don’t have a favorite SC song but here are a few that fill me up…

    A Change Is Gona Come
    Summer Time
    Nothing Can Change This Love
    What a Wonderful World This Could Be
    Twistin’ the Night Away
    She Was Only Sixteen
    Frankie & Johnny
    Chain Gang
    You Send Me
    Cupid
    Bring It On Home to ME
    Everybody Love to cha cha cha
    Ain’t That Good News
    Another Saturday Night
    Having A Party

  7. I recently went to a play in Detroit about Sam Cooke’s life. It was very good. Great post :)

  8. warrior11209 says:

    I am a big Sam Cooke fan. ALthough I was 7 when he died , my mother played all his albums and I knew all the lyrics to each and every song. Some of my favorites include:
    You Understand Me
    You Send Me
    A Change Is Gonna
    Bring It On Home to Me

    Sam Cooke – a talent gone much too soon

  9. I love (x100) the legendary Sam Cooke! He is my all-time favorite singer ever!! You can hear him in many of today’s R & B/Soul singers (male and female) his influence is out of this world. I have a lot of his records, but I am looking for the stuff that is not as mainstream or popular to add to my collection. I have also read a bio about his life, can’t remember the author though, but it didn’t seem quite right, not sure why. I wish someone would do an accurate biopic about his life; I heard some mention that Spike Lee was talking about it a few years ago. Does anyone have any additional info? Anyway, Afrobella, I’m so glad that you are paying homage to Sam Cooke, everyone should know his music.

  10. P.S. As for a favorite song, I just don’t know, all of his music, from playful songs like “Cousin of Mine” to the soul-stirring (no pun intended) “Change is Gonna Come” and everything in between all seem to connect with me on some level or another. In my opinion, there are just too many to choose from. :o)

  11. I’m a huge fan of this guy!! Love all his songs but especially A Change Is Gonna, You Send Me and Twistin’ the Night Away. Great music!!!!

  12. Sam Cooke is up there with Otis Redding. What happened to soul music?! This is the kind of music my dad used to play (along with The Mighty Sparrow and Francois Hardy) and I miss hearing it.

    Favs are, A Change Is Gonna and You Send Me.

  13. Yes, yes, yes…I love me some Sam Cooke, too!

  14. I am going to take some of you back with this one. My favorite Sam Cooke song of all time is “Touch the Hymn of his Garment”. Most people forget about his gospel roots and that Aretha Franklin was his mentor.

    Next on the list would be:

    Chain Gang
    It’s All Right / For Sentimental Reasons
    Everybody loves to cha cha cha
    Summertime

  15. I loveeeee me some Sam Cooke even though I am 25. I loved not only the soul side but also the Gospel side when he was with the Soul Stirrers. I stay on old classic music.

    Favorite songs with Soul Stirrers: Wonderful, Last Mile of the Way, Hem of His Garment, and Peace in the Valley

    Favorite soul music: Change is gonna come, Cupid, You Send Me, and his rendition of The Great Pretender

  16. I grew up on Sam Cooke. My mother loves him so he was a constant in our home. My favorite song of all time from him is Lost and Lookin from Nightbeat. The song is soft and quiet. Almost like a whisper sort of like Al Green’s Simply Beautiful. Except that you can hear the sadness and desperation on the track. Nobody interpreted a feeling like Sam. No one.

    His passing was just so undignified and ridiculous and I mourned it as if it just happened. Between Sam and Donny Hathaway I feel that the world was truly blessed to have them for the time we did.

  17. He is a fantastic singer and composer. When I listen his ‘You Send Me’ or ‘Change Is Gonna’ I’m just flying to the sky….

  18. Then next month shes gunna start dating her grandpas friends!!! :o

  19. I Love Sam Cooke! it’s almost like i can’t pick a fav, “Change gonna come” is a top 10 all time global classic, but i guess “Frankie and Jonhnie” is the most fun and funky song… “Little Red Rooster” is one of my mom’s favorites, so i know that one from way back in the crib… “Having a Party” is may fav… I think…

  20. D. Woodley says:

    My favorite singer of all time. Today is his birthday, as is mine. It’s so hard to pick just one favorite song of his but “I Love You For Sentimental Reasons” is so beautiful. What a voice, talent man!…Happy birthday in heaven Sam.

  21. I love Sam Cooke’s music If you want to hear the voice that was meant for gospel music you need listen to him. I think is gospel songs are just as if not betetr than his secular music.He has so manyt songs that arent main stream…Lovable, Sugar Dumpling, where you can hear him laugh a little in it. One song not mentioned here is That’s where its at…need I say more

  22. Ah yeah! Sam Cooke, grew up on him (I’m 50 now and got him on the iPod). Mom, (married to my dad) adored him and cried on hearing the news, he was killed by a bull-________ (not P/C nowadays). She told me the story and with the Internet, I found the story and read her the details that I found out.

    So talented, so business saavy, such a shame! I often wondered where music would be if him and others had lived out their lives to better influence these knuckleheads today who think they can sing but…

  23. I’ve got some good news:
    I just spoke with Jennifer in the Programming Department at KLCS (in Los Angeles) and she informed me that Sam Cooke: Crossing Over will be re-airing Friday Feb 18, 2011 at 10 PM on KLCS!!!!! (In LA I think this is Channel 58- check on-line at http://www.klcs.org)

    BTW the KLCS link to the TV schedule only goes through to Feb. 8th http://www.klcs.org/tvschedule.htm

    YES!!! Now all I have to do is get them to release this program on DVD!!!

  24. I wasn’t born when Sam Cooke died and just by chance saw his picture on an cover one day when I was 16. I thought he was so cute, so I wanted to hear his music. And what a voice he had. People think I’m nuts when I say he is my all time favorite singer given my age. His songs “Sad Mood” and “Nothing Can Change this love,” are my two all time favorites. His gospel songs are indeed a church service all by themselves and I put them on every sunday morning. For the person who said Aretha Franklin was his mentor–it was indeed the other way around. Sam was much older than Aretha and she discusses her crush on him in her last book. She went on tour with him at 16. He was good friends with her preacher Dad. He was also good with friends with Malcolm X. If you are a die-hard fan–check out the book “Dream Boogie.” It’s tells you all you’d ever want to know about the first black man to own his own publishing and the first black male singer to cut out his relaxer/conk and wear an afro in the late 50″s.

  25. Aretha Franklin did not mentor Sam Cooke it was his music who influenced her she was a huge fan.

  26. Sam Cooke a Giant of the time.
    One of the most influential singer/songwriter of all time

  27. I love Sam Cooke. I’m 29 years old and would describe myself as an old soul. I fell in love with the sound of Sam Cooke’s voice when I was a pre-teen. Then I had to go find an album.

    Greatest of all for me is A Change Gone Come. But Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day, Chain Gang, and Nearer My God To Thee are all great.

    I will continue to explore the music before my “time” thanks to the voice of Sam Cooke!

  28. Brian Jennings says:

    “Cupid”…there’s something heartbreaking and hopeful about this one that always reduces me to tears. A man with that much talent, when you lose him, the heartache never goes away. I still feel it nearly 50 years after his death.

  29. I could have not have said it better. I listen at his music every week And I am 66 yeas old.When Sam was killed my mother felt so bad for me I was a very hurt young lady. I remember running to the radio everytime the DJ would play one of his songs. I have researched his life on the computer and you guys have to read Dream Boogis the life and times of Sam Cook awesome.That voice and the way he pronounced his words priceless. I also cry when I hear all of those beautiful songs.UTube has all of his music trust me you will love every one of his songs.I could just go on and on.Sam was always in New Orleans a lot my home town. Now that I am in Californis I am going to visit his grave site and his old house.His music will always be in my heart.I LOVE YOU SAM.

  30. Dave Bass says:

    I’m a singer/songwriter in the tradition of Sam Cooke’s gospel musc in Washington, DC area. Google: DAVE BASS GOSPEL or DAVE BASS SINGER SONGWRITER to get more information. I have a song on YOUTUBE (DAVE BASS)inspired by Sam’s A Change Is Gonna Come entitled “WE MADE IT THROUGH”. Check it out and offer a comment. Sam will always be with us. Easy. Dave Bass

  31. “Just Another Day” wih the Soul Stirrers, by far! I have either listened to it or sung it literally everyday for the last six & a half years. It is an infectious groove that pops in my head often and I love it. It has become a sort of mantra for me. Whenever someone gets my proverbial goat, I think to myself “Just Another Day…please Lord, grant me just one more day before I stab this moron in the neck with a pencil.” Who says that Sam Cooke doesn’t have anything to say? He keeps me from throttling my boss on a daily basis.

    If you ask me, most of the new R & B singers could go back to Old School and get an education.

  32. Greg Rumpff says:

    It’s hard to pick just one but my favourite is probably “A Change is Gonna Come”. One of his lesser-known tunes that really is a great example of what Sam could do vocally is his cover of the standard “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons”. Whoever named his box set “The Man Who Invented Soul” was onto something. Undeniably classic singer…

  33. Somewhere theres a girl quite possibly Sam’s greatest performance on wax and he is simply the greatest singer of all time

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