Sam Cooke

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To many ears, Sam Cooke is the greatest male vocalist ever — only rivaled, perhaps, by his musical father, Nat King Cole.

 

As, for instance, Ray Charles put it, "Nobody sound like Sam Cooke.  I mean nobody.  He hit every note where it was supposed to be, and not only hit the note but hit the note with feeling."

 

Sadly, many of the TV appearances by this pop-gospel hit-making machine during his all-too-brief four year career were lip-synched, or never preserved — such as the historic "A Change Is Gonna Come" he laid down on Carson's Tonight Show in 1964.  It was a time when both television and popular music were growing up together, and actual live performances — and their preservation — was still somewhat rare. 

 

But there are a handful of real gems . . .

 

There’s a fantastic, riveting, jazz-jumpin’, joy-bustin’ Twistin’ The Night Away from the Jerry Lewis Show (of all short-lived shows!) from Dec 7th, 1963, almost a year to the day before he was killed. If you want one clip of Sam Cooke, this is it.

 

Or check out the godly Blowin’ In The Wind that this gospel man delivers on Shindig just two months before his death. Very live, and very joyous.

 

There’s also a powerful and groovin' Basin Street Blues from an early Tonight Show, starring Johnny Carson that should not be missed.

 

Or perhaps wildest of all — you can catch him actually doing an a cappella duet with . . . Muhammad Ali! This is way up there in the category of things you never imagined you’d see.
 

 

There is a highly recommended Sam Cooke biography DVD that contains some of these gems and much more.  

 

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Further Reading

"Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke" is the definitive 750-page biography, written by Peter Guralnick, published 2005 by Little, Brown.

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