Memories of Sam Cooke
Here's where Sam fans share their memories of Sam, whether it was the time they first heard his voice on the radio...or the time they saw him perform in concert...or when they bought that first record...or where they were when they heard Sam had died. This is where fans can say what the man and his music mean to them. So read the contributions below and then e-mail the web master with your own personal story. It will be posted on this web site.
A Rallying Cryby Mae
The year was 1964 and I was hearing "A Change Is Gonna Come" for the first time. Having been born and raised on the famous Wallace Lake Road in Shreveport, LA, and being a freshman and Grambling State University, I was as proud as proud could get - and then some. We as a black people were on the rise with movements in America that put chills down your back...and Sam was blasting "A Change Is Gonna Come." These words, for me, made everything A-OK. Regardless of whether you lived or died, it was all for THEN and for what later HAD to be: "A change." I am so thankful I have the memories of Sam and the times.
Hearing Sam's Voice Inside A Darkened Movie Theaterby Anthony Mooney
The first time I heard Sam Cooke's music was when I was a kid. I remember my father always playing his gospel classics with The Soul Stirrers, like "Touch The Hem Of His Garment." I liked that song, but at the time I didn't know who it was I was hearing.
Many years later, I saw the movie "X" (Spike Lee's film about Malcolm X) and I heard "A Change Is Gonna Come" in the movie. It was one of the most emotional vocal performances I had ever heard from any artist. I went out and bought "The Man And His Music" on compact disc.
To me, Sam Cooke is one of the greatest singer-songwriters ever. His voice is silky smooth, his singing style sounds so sincere and straight from the heart. When I hear Sam sing, I hear one of the most original and influential voices in the history of popular music. The songs Sam wrote and made famous have become classics in pop music and his influence on soul music is legendary. He is one of the true pioneers in soul music.
When I listen to songs like "You Send Me," "Twistin' The Night Away," "Bring It On Home To Me," "Wonderful World," "Cupid, "Nothing Can Change This Love" and countless others, I feel real joy. Whether Sam was singing gospel music with The Soul Stirrers or rock 'n' soul, I always felt moved. I often wonder if Sam hadn't died so tragically and so young what other great music we might have heard from this great artist. But the mark he made on popular music while he was here has had a lasting and enduring impact that is evident in the music we hear today. Countless artists in various genres of music have covered the great songs Sam Cooke wrote and made famous. I think the mainstream music establishment doesn't give Sam all the credit he deserves. He should have a Grammy Legends Award for his contributions as a singer, a songwriter and a record company owner. He was able to accomplish things in the music industry that at the time were unheard of for African American performers.
I will close my submission by paraphrasing Sam:
To all my fellow Sam Cooke fans, I say "keep on havin' that party."
Train Station Serenadeby Vel Omarr
I was born during the 50's on a small farm in the Mississippi Delta. My mother, Sarah, found that living in the South and working in the cotton fields was not -- could not -- be all that life had to offer. So, like thousands had done before her, Sarah packed her bags and took the "next train smoking" to Chicago in search of better things.
I remained in Mississippi with my grandparents, and I attended church every Sunday. I remember sometimes my grandparents would travel to neighboring towns to hear a "big preacher" or to enjoy a shouting, spirit-filled "Gospel Fest."
At the age of eight, I moved to Chicago to be with my mother. This was pure culture shock! From the sticks to the bricks.
The first song I heard on the radio as the train pulled into the station that day was "You Send Me" sung by Sam Cooke. The song eased my longing to be back home in Mississippi.
I began singing at the age of 14 and upon graduating from school I was sure I wanted to make show business my life. In the early 70's, I boarded a plane bound for Los Angeles to concentrate my efforts on a singing career.
Today, I credit Sam Cooke with being my singing inspiration from childhood. Mastering Cooke's vocal techniques and stage presence have made me a sought-after vocalist throughout the Los Angeles area. I sing my original compositions using my own life experiences -- the cotton fields of Mississippi, the tough streets of Chicago, and the struggling entertainer trying to make it in Hollywood -- to soulfully deliver a passionate blend of music guaranteed to please.
"We're gonna have a good time tonight, right?"by Beonis Jackson
The first time I saw Sam Cooke was in 1963.
It was at the Dallas Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. Sam was headlining with Jackie Wilson.
Tickets were $5 for seats right at the stage and those had to be bought ahead of time. It was $4.50 where I was sitting, and $2 to $2.50 in the upper deck. Let me tell you, that was expensive in those days because you didn't make but a dollar or $1.05 an hour. Anything over a dollar an hour was "good money" -- especially if you were African-American.
I was there with this guy I knew. He was like 21 or 22 and I was a "youngster" but he was there with me. I don't know how he got those tickets, but usually there was somebody in your neck of the woods that always seemed to have them. Other than that, you could just buy them at the gate -- at least the $2 and $2.50 tickets.
They had some comedians and other singers -- I don't remember who they were -- who came out before Sam and Jackie did. Jackie came on and was wearing a gray/silver suit. His shirt and shoes were the only thing black and everything else was gray. He only sang about three songs, and I believe "Danny Boy" was first and "Lonely Teardrops" second. On "Lonely Teardrops," he kicked the microphone and fell up under it, etc., and all the girls were screaming -- though people seem to forget that men screamed at those shows, too.
His final song was "Baby Workout." When he got to the end of it he said "now when I tell you to shout I want you to jump at it!" Well, when he said, "Shout!," everybody shouted but he jumped forward with his body and his pants fell down!
He had swimming trunks or some colorful shorts on under his pants, but the people started running to the stage. They closed the curtain real fast like all of that had been planned and then you could hear Sam singing "La la ta da da" like he does in his recordings.
Now, there was no portable microphone there that a singer could use to walk around with. There was just one microphone on a stand and it was stuck down in a big silver circle on the floor at the center of the stage. Sam had to be hollering REAL loud because you could hear him over the people screaming and yet he was not even at the microphone. He was backstage somewhere, I guess.
When they finally opened the curtain, Sam was walking out while leaning way back with his head almost to the floor and his legs going up in the air like the marching-band leaders used to do. He was walking towards the center of the stage, and I tell you EVERYBODY there just stopped exactly where they were and just looked at him. It was so incredible because it was hard to believe that he was walking like that and he didn't fall down or anything. On top of that, he was singing.
He went all the way to the end of the stage and back and when he got to the microphone, he said, "Hey Dallas, Texas!" and everybody said, "Hey!"
Then he said, "We're gonna have a good time tonight, right?" And everybody said, "Yeah!" and then he started off on "Somebody Have Mercy." It was kind of like the Harlem Square version but not as long and not as exciting sounding because everybody was so amazed at how he had walked out there singing. He had on navy blue pants and a bluish shirt that was opened to where you could see his gold cross necklace hanging down.
I think the big difference between Sam and performers like Jackie Wilson and The Beatles is that with those other performers the people went crazy when they walked out there and they stayed crazy during the whole performance. With Sam they went crazy when he walked out there, but when he started singing, they just looked and paid attention like they were listening to a prophet or preacher or something. They gave him so much respect that if he said, "Let's sing along," EVERYBODY did -- or if he put his hand up to his mouth like in a "hush" or "be-quiet" sign, they did. He had complete control of the audience as if they were his children.
Boy, Sam sure did preach that night. He was so much like a preacher. He seemed to be holy with the way he acted and the way he sang. It's hard to describe but when or if you've ever been moved by a speaker or preacher that's the way Sam Cooke moved you. He had your undivided attention at all times.
After "Somebody Have Mercy" the next song, I believe, was "Win Your Love For Me." About half way through the song, he turned his back to the audience and sung to the band, so to speak. I think the next song was either "That's It, I Quit , I'm Movin' On" or "It Takes A Whole Lotta Woman." However it went, the song was kind of up beat. Not too fast like "Having A Party," but up tempo.
As he got through the first verse or so he started to shake. Now Sam Cooke could SHAKE. Better than Sam and Dave or anybody. His whole body shook like the wind was blowing him. I know it's hard to imagine but this is the truth! He probably picked that up singing gospel -- especially that song "Were You There."
So these two women went up to the end of the stage -- there were no security guards -- and they started shaking real real good! Sam looked at them and kinda smiled but not a happy smile. Kind of like a "Oh, you're trying to out do me" kind of smile. Then he started shaking REAL fast and singing at the time!
Yeah, that's what happened. At almost the end of the song, those women threw their hands at Sam and walked back to their seats. Sam then did "That's Where It's At." This is strange to me because all of the books say he put that song out in 1964 but I saw him sing it in 1963. Every time he sang the word "at" in the title, he would lean back and put his leg up and hold it until the other "at" in the next line and then he'd do the other leg.
By then, I guess, the song was getting real good to him because he kept singing it and then he fell right out into the audience like the rock stars and Garth Brooks do now. Yep, Sam Cooke did it way back then. The people in the audience passed him along like he was a coffin! He was lying on his back and he kept on singing! The people didn't tear off his cross or nothing! I was sitting to the right of Sam on the ground level. I was hoping they'd pass him along my way, but they didn't. Then they put him back on stage and the last song was "You Were Made For Me." He sang it real pretty and almost without music. Just that guitar player, Cliff, and him. He made you see that "ocean" and the "apples" on the tree. Gosh, it was so pretty the way he did that song. After that he said, "We gotta go now, but we'll be back, OK?" and everybody said, "OK!" and that was it.
Everybody stayed for a little while because we thought he was going to do an encore, but he didn't. I'd say he sung for about 30-35 minutes. (There were more songs that he sang, of course, but he did them with a kind of fast beat and I can't really remember them. He just moved right through them, like how he does "Cupid" on the Harlem Square CD.)
This was in the spring of 1963, if I can remember correctly, because the second time I saw him was in the summer of 1963 -- around July or August.
But that's another story for another time.
"Oh, that's Sam Cooke."by Kate Woodson
The first time I heard Sam Cooke's voice was in 1994.
I was 11 and my parents were going to buy a new house. We were looking around for houses and in the neighborhood we were looking at, they had model homes that you could look at and then buy a house just like it.
Well, in the model home we went in they had "You Send Me" playing on the intercom. I asked my mom who that was singing and she said, "I don't know."
Then I asked my dad and he said, "Oh, that's Sam Cooke."
I asked him who Sam Cooke was and why he didn't any music videos out on MTV, VH1, BET or any other music channel. My dad told me, "Baby, that man has been dead since 1960-something!"
I was shocked because he didn't sound like that "old" music from the 1960s. Then I asked my dad if could I buy one of Sam Cooke's cassette tapes. (I didn't have CDs yet.) He told me not to even waste my time because his music was all tied up in crazy situations and I probably wouldn't find it anywhere.
Being young, I forgot about Sam Cooke, until I heard him again singing "A Change Is Gonna Come"' at the end of the Malcolm X movie. When I asked my parents again who that singer was, my dad once again told me that was Sam Cooke.
My mom said, "Sure is. I had forgot about him! I used to love that song!" After that, I made it my quest to find every piece of music by Sam Cooke. When I got to the 8th grade I got my first CD player and my first CD by Sam Cooke ("The Man and His Music"), and ever since then I've been collecting EVERY piece of music that has his voice on it.
And once I found out that Sam Cooke was a mentor to my daddy's favorite singer (Johnnie Taylor), I knew then that Sam Cooke was DA MAN and will forever be DA MAN!
Not even the police could stop Sam's performance.by Ed
My favorite memory of Sam Cooke is the memory I have of him in Shreveport, La., in 1963.
Sam Cooke was as big as you could get back then! Everybody liked him -- even people who didn't like his style of singing started to like him once they saw him sing live.
I've collected just about everything that has ever been printed about Sam Cooke and there is no mention anywhere of him singing in Shreveport in 1963. In the book "You Send Me," it states that Same was there but that he got arrested. Now, he may have gotten arrested ... but it wasn't because he disturbed the peace.
It was because he wouldn't stop singing.
During those times, black people (except for maybe Sammy Davis or Harry Belafonte) couldn't sing in "white" buildings or clubs unless a promoter was sponsoring it, like Alan Freed. At the time everybody that went to concerts and shows believed that Sam Cooke booked himself into these clubs -- that he was his own promoter! The way they write things now, it appears that Sam was like everybody else and that he had a hired promoter. But at the time when he was alive the word was that Sam Cooke was his own promoter. After all, he had his own record company and studio and had his own band. That was all hard to believe back then because African-American people had so many limitations as to what they could do even if they had the money.
So we all thought that Sam was something else because he was doing all of these "no-no" type things during an era when you just didn't go against the system.
Now, the rules at all the concerts was that you had to leave and be out of the building at a certain time -- usually about 1 a.m. or 1:30 a.m. At the auditorium where Sam was that night there were a lot of other acts like Bobby Blue Bland on the bill. By the time Sam came on, it was already about 12:45 p.m.
So Sam started singing. He wasn't doing anything special ... except for singing like there was no tomorrow.
He didn't do his normal preaching and he didn't shake or nothing. Everybody knew all about Sam Cooke's performance style, so they were waiting for him to shake or "whoa-whoa" or clap his hands like he was crazy. We had all, most likely, seen him in church during the 1950s.
Well, on this night he wasn't doing any of this. He was just singing song after song. He was singing mostly the ballads -- you know, nothing fast and lively.
It got to be 1:30 a.m. and the police went up on stage and said that we would all have to leave because it was "curfew" time. So Sam talked them into letting him sing two more songs. (We could hear the discussion because of the big microphone set in the stage.) The police agreed because there were just as many white people there as black and Sam really was a nice looking guy, you know.
So the first song he did after that was "Talkin' Trash." He sung it REAL HARD -- like he was singing gospel and everybody was swinging with him. The police were right there at the end of the stage -- waiting for him to start the second one and finish, I guess. Then he preached a little bit about how much he loved the woman that he had. (That was standard stuff back then.) And then he sang, "Darling, you ..."
Well, when he said that all of the women just started crying! To this day, I still can't figure out why they started crying, but that's what they did. Just crying like somebody was killing them or something. The police came up to the microphone, got on each side of Sam and said that was enough and it was time for him to go.
When they said that, Sam walked off -- but he kept singing! He mixed in "For Sentimental Reasons" with "You Send Me." The amazing thing was that you could still hear him singing even with no microphone!
I guess we could still hear him because everybody was so quiet and looking to see what was going to happen because the police had said it was time to go. As Sam was singing, the police MADE the band quit playing! Then they started running at Sam because he was at the end of the stage by then. When he seen them coming, he jumped off the stage and kept right on singing in the audience! It was so amazing to see. Not only was he singing with no music and no microphone, but he was standing up to the police right before our eyes!
The police got on the microphone and said some racial things designed to stop Sam from singing. You can imagine what they said when they were calling for Sam. He didn't stop, though! He just kept singing and laughing and clapping his hands like he would never sing again!
The police said that they were going to turn the lights out on us and put everybody (including Sam) in jail if he didn't leave. He didn't leave. Sure enough, they turned the lights off. You could still see in there, though. But it was real dark. Then nobody could see the police anymore and Sam got back up on stage and sang. His drummer came back out there and Sam sang the gospel song "Farther Along." I guess he sang that one because he knew that we all were scared because the police had threatened EVERYBODY. A lot of people did go ahead and leave, but more stayed.
Then Sam began warming up to sing "Good Times" -- saying how time didn't mean anything and he was going to stay here until he "soothed his soul" because this is what he came there to do. That's when the police came back out and dropped the stage curtain down.
After that, we didn't hear Sam's voice no more. We were all scared to death because we didn't know what was happening or what would happen to Sam.
About two weeks later, we heard Sam on the radio talking with a disc jockey about the incident. A day or so after that, they put out on the TV, radio and newspaper that Sam was banned from the state of Louisiana. Everyone I knew couldn't believe it, but it was public knowledge. The Louisiana people I was around were shocked. They hated it, because Sam Cooke was just about everybody's favorite.
A couple of months after that, JFK got killed and it was just SO sad. Then, when Sam got killed that next year, it just seemed like the world was going to end because all his music could make you want to live. JFK had that about him, too. And when both of those men were killed, that just seemed like nothing was ever going to change.
But as we all know, a change did come ... just like Sam said it would.
I've looked on every web site and searched old newspaper clippings to find the story of Sam being banned from Louisiana, but I haven't found it anywhere. Most of my family don't believe this story, but I know what happened because I was too much into Sam Cooke to forget or mis-read something like that.
I thank you for creating this web site in order for old fans like me to share our memories. Sam Cooke was a great thing to have seen and I wish someone out there would've had some kind of video camera when he performed live in concert because he gave you your money's worth.
He wouldn't stop singing until he was ready to!
"The people gathered around the building. Some were crying."by Beonis Jackson
The second time I saw Sam Cooke perform live was in the autumn of 1963. His baby had just died that summer. (Sam's business was always widespread news.)
He was at the Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas, Texas. At that time, the ballroom was mainly for white people. It was a "country" type of place. Sam had supposedly rented out the place with his own money, and there was nobody else on the bill with him. However, the show didn't start until around 10 or 10:30 p.m. I'm guessing that was because he had to travel to get there from another show somewhere else.
There was nobody there to introduce him. There was the band and some policemen there that kept telling everybody that "Mr. Cooke would arrive shortly." Then a big man came through the middle of the crowd kind of pushing everybody out of the way. Sam was behind him, patting on his back with a beat. I don't know why, but the people really didn't recognize Sam. I did though. I told my friend Alice Jean, "There goes Sam!"
She couldn't find him and I said, "Right in front of you!" She fainted for about 10 seconds. She loved him more than I did. When he got to the stage, he busted out on "Baby, Baby, Baby." Just singing like he did. Next, I think, was "Nothing Can Change This Love." Whatever the song was, it was a slow type of song and he let his voice get hoarse sounding. Every song after that, his voice seemed to get hoarser and hoarser like on "The Great 1955 Shrine Concert" CD.
The Longhorn had a small stage, so Sam didn't do any walking around or anything. He just stood there bow-legged and sang. He sang "Shake" and "Twistin' the Night Away." The only slow song he sang was "Nothing Can Change This Love" -- at least until the end of the show.
Throughout the whole performance, Alice Jean kept saying, "Don't Sam look different? He's not acting the way he usually does." I told her that I thought the same thing, but I couldn't really put my finger on it at the time. Now I'm figuring that he probably was down about his baby dying and he had started drinking more around that time. At least that's what people are saying now. They did, though, bring a drink out to Sam, but I just figured it was water. I don't know. But he was acting different. He didn't talk or preach that much. He was doing a lot of "dancing" I guess is what you call it.
He was dancing like Jackie Wilson, and acting out every verse of every song. He shook and he did the twist a lot. The other time I saw Sam, he shook but he didn't twist as much as he was this night.
When it came time for the place to close, Sam was really getting the crowd. He had taken off the suit coat and tie. As a matter of fact, I believe he had on the same brown suit that they have those pictures of him in -- the one that's brown with the short waiter-type coat that stops right at the waist. He had taken all of that off and he was starting to preach and hum. The people started to stand up on the tables so they all could see him.
The police came out and said that us being on top of the tables and chairs was a hazard and that if we didn't get off they would have to take Sam away. So we got down, and as soon as everybody started to settle down, Sam started humming "You Send Me."
Everybody went crazy and sat there for a while. Sam didn't sing one word! He was just humming. So people started getting on top of the tables again. The police came out and disconnected the microphone and walked Sam off the stage to the back of the ballroom. We all were a little upset but we left with no fuss. But when we got outside, you could hear Sam singing. The people gathered around the building to listen and Sam sang and hummed for about 10 minutes. It was still "You Send Me." That's all he sang.
A lot of people were outside crying because they said he must be thinking about his little baby. The older people were thinking he had caught the spirit because EVERYBODY thought Sam had the spirit when he sang. The feeling about Sam Cooke was that if anyone ever had the spirit, then he did.
That was the last time I saw Sam sing live, except for on TV a couple of times before his death.
I sure hope somebody recorded Sam singing live somewhere besides on TV -- somewhere where there was no rules or anything. Just Sam.
Grandfather's 8-Trackby Mrs. Kennedy Brown
I have been a Sam Cooke fan since 1972, when I was four years old.
I remember one Sunday afternoon riding in the car with my grandpa. He was listening to "The Best Of Sam Cooke" on his 8-track player, and the song that was playing was "Cupid."
I was just four years old, but after that every other singer took a back seat to Sam -- even that quintet known as the Jackson Five!
Sam had been gone for four years before I was even born. I was hurt to know that he had been taken from us in 1964. I never got a chance to be counted as a grieving fan, but he is still my idol!
Today, my husband and I have four children: a girl who will turn 15 in December and three boys, age 12,11 and 7. People are always saying, "Those kids of yours cannot recite one Lil Bowwow song, but they know every Sam Cooke song, pop and gospel." Now, to me, that is a compliment, and one can only hope that Sam can witness this from heaven.
All of his music is great, but I like his gospel music best of all -- and that is something coming from a little devil like myself!
On The Highway, Discovering Sam Cookeby Micolas F. Arnold
Growing up as a little boy in late-'60s Detroit, the sights and sounds that I was exposed to varied by my relatives' households.
One of my aunts, for example, was a strong Tyrone Davis-Wilson Pickett-Otis Redding kind of woman, whereas my other aunt was into heavy pop and some rhythm and blues. In my immediate household, I heard The Sound Of Motown / Hitsville U.S.A. -- most notably, The Supremes. (My mom went to school at one time with Diana Ross. My mom also was a former singer in a group that was once courted by Berry Gordy. The group was called The Taylor Tops .... but that's a different story.)
Oh, we had plenty of Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Dionne Warwick, and lots of Jackson Five, but the Supremes and Temptations were "it."
That paints a picture of what I was hearing most at home -- away from school, anyway. All that being said, I honestly don't recall hearing any Sam Cooke at home. (Maybe his popularity had passed in my mom's house?) I don't even recall physically seeing a Sam record in the old floor-mode, console stereo's storage area. I was too young to actively buy music myself. You know, when you're a seven-year-old, you just play whatever is laying around. And any allowance money went to The Jackson Five. So in 1994, when I finally actually purchased a Sam Cooke record -- it was a tape, actually -- my heart melted.
I was moved by the sweet, soulful, spiritual sounds that swirled from my car speakers as I drove from California to Las Vegas. It was "Sam Cooke and The Soul Stirrers, Volume One."
Don't get me wrong. I already knew what Sam Cooke's legacy meant to popular soul music, and I had heard some of his classic hits on oldies stations. But I must share what happened to me that fateful evening in my car.
By the time "Peace In The Valley" on side two came on, I was no longer driving ... no sir. Instead, my freshly cut little head was laying in my grandmothers' lap, with me peering at the stage inside Gospel Temple Baptist Church in Detroit. Four young men from the Young Adult Choir sang with so much conviction, I thought it must hurt to sing "Peace In The Valley" that hard. It was 1968, and I could feel the calming, intermittent breeze from my grandmother's fan. (You know the sort of fan: one of those cardboard types, stapled to a tongue-depressor type of stick. The fan always had a picture Martin Luther King on the front and an ad for a funeral home on the back.)
The sweet sounds of the young men imitating The Soul Stirrers tugged at my little heart. I wanted to cry, but I didn't know why. Yes, my sweet King of Soul was talking there.
Needless to say, to this day I devour any and all things having to do with this great man. That's how I discovered the wonderful Sam Cooke.
"Everybody let the good times roll..."by Steve O'Brien
A long story short...
One night during the summer of '92 I was at a large drunken house party in Boston. I was about 22, and with a bunch of drunken "rockers," if you will ...
At about midnight, my friend put on the Sam disc ("The Man And His Music" on RCA). This place was packed and everyone started groovin on Sam! "... all night long ... " A house full of drunken twentysomethings spent the night dancin', drinkin', laughin' and romancin'!
He rocked the house all night long and it was fantastic! He is the father of soul! And I've been collecting his music ever since.
VH-1 Documentary Produces New Fanby Dena
I pride myself on being wiser than my teenage years would allow. I let my style of dress, speech and music reflect this personality trait. I'd take a great "mix CD" with hits from Smokey, Marvin and the Temptations over newer r&b artists any day. I loved the sweet soulfulness of the pioneers. I knew all their names and I knew at least one of theirs hits but that's where my knowledge ended. Until one day while channel surfing I stopped on a TV documentary about Sam Cooke.
I knew only one of his songs -- "Cupid" -- but that sweet face of his, coupled with the restless passion in his eyes made me linger on the channel.
I wrote this poem about an hour after I watched the documentary...
I am bored. Channel surfing and paying minimal attention to the images flashing on and off the screen. Then I see the face and I hear the voice. The song sounds vaguely familiar, but the face is new to my mind. It is a handsome face, undoubtedly, but this is not what captures my attention; something in the eyes, a sort of magnetism emanates from them. They seem to be calling me to come and listen to what their wearer has to say. The way the lips move as the most beautiful voice resonates; holds me on the brink of exhalation. It is the face and voice of Sam Cooke. I listen to his story and learn of his life and death and I fall in love.
A little cheesy I know, but Sam's story had touched me.
From his beginnings in gospel and the way he never really left it, to his "double life" as an entertainer of all people and an activist. I relate to it all immensely.
I love him for his activism in a time when I wish to have been alive, his beautiful face and the voice that is nothing short of heaven sent.
A Classroom Lesson In Music And Peopleby Joe
Back in 1989, I was in my last year of college in New Zealand. I was about 17 or 18 years of age. One of the classes I had to take that year was English. Our English teacher was a guy by the name of Kubie Witten-Hannah.
In Mr Witten-Hannahs class he had a stereo at the front of the class. The agreement we had was that my classmates and I could bring music in to play as long as we worked while listening. You could imagine some of the stuff that was being bought in to be played. We had everything from rap to European folk music.
Our class was made up of a range of different backgrounds that covered every race, religion and socio-economic standing -- and for this very reason no one could ever manage to keep everyone happy with any one particular style of music.
At least, that was the case until Kubie introduced us all to the wonder that was (and is) Sam Cooke.
He told us that the stuff we were listening wasn't music, and now he was gonna show what real music was. With this, we all started laughing ... This was the same guy who had allowed some students to play "Polka Hits For Parties."
To our amazement, he pressed play, and out came one of the most soothing sounds I have ever heard in my life. It was Sam in full swing: "Cupid." "Wonderful World." And so on.
We all sat there dumbfounded. Our teacher was hip. He was cool. But it wasn't anything he had done. It was all Sam.
Sam had crossed boundaries whose actual existence we still were discovering. To this day, we see each other every now and then we laugh about that day. If it wasn't for that day, we could have been so one-dimensional in our appreciation of music -- and, I suppose, people as a whole.
Now I'm a grown man and I want my kids to experience and appreciate people from all different walks of life.
Hearing 'Chain Gang' While 'Up On The Roof'by Paul Stafford
I was delighted to discover this site and read of other fans' Sam Cooke experiences. Sam certainly sold records in Australia, where I've lived most of my life, but for most of the time since his death we've not had much of his material available to us.
It was 1966 when I was 15 years old that I first became aware of who Sam Cooke was. I can remember that I was working as a trainee electrician and on this particular day I was up inside the roof of a house running same cable. Someone had a radio on down below and all of a sudden I heard "Chain Gang" being played. I don't remember whether it was the uniqueness of his voice or the beat of that particular tune that grabbed me then but I scrambled down the ladder quickly to hear the DJ announce the name of the song and the singer. That was the start of a lifelong passion for listening to and collecting as many of Sam's records as I could find.
I've been lucky enough to acquire twenty LPs -- including most of his original releases -- and I'm slowly filling in the gaps with CD re-issues. Most records issued in Australia, including most of the ones I have of Sam's, were pressed in this country and often had slightly different covers and sometimes different tracks. I'm also keen to get a copy of the VH-1 "LEGENDS" special that has obviously stimulated interest for a whole bunch of new fans but which of course didn't play in this country. I read with particular envy the stories above of those fans that were fortunate enough to see Sam in live performance.
I thank you sincerely for creating this site and wish you and all of Sam's fans the very best.
A Family Connection To The Late Sam Cookeby Robert G. Paulin
When I was a boy my mother would play "Send Me Some Lovin'," "Nothing Can Change This Love" and "Bring It On Home To Me." One day, I was at the home of my aunt -- my mother's older sister. She said she had the "Best Of Sam Cooke" album, the one with the yellow and black cover. I played all the songs and right from the first time I loved them all.
Then I asked the questions,"Who is he? Is he still living?"
Lo and behold I found out that he was dead. (He was the same age as my mother and father, but my father died earlier that year.)
I remember watching TV on channel 11 WPIX when I saw a preview of "The Clay Cole Show, " and they said they had film clips of the late Sam Cooke. At the time I saw that preview I didn't know who he was. But after hearing his music and finding out he had been killed, I said, "Man, what a loss to the music world."
My aunt not only had his R&B songs, but his gospel music, too. When she let me listen to them, it was hard to understand how a man with so much to give in the music world was gone. As an older man today I not ashamed to say I love this man and his music. I know we all must die in this lifetime, but he didn't have to die the way he did. I have collected all of his music -- from the original "Good Times" in mono from 1964 (and in good condition) to "Good Times" in stereo. I also record the "Legends" special from VH-1 this past January, and I made three copies.
Also, I have the book, "You Send Me: The Life & Times Of Sam Cooke," which I purchased in 1995. I have so much to say, but I'm holding back tears as I write this. Sam is someone we don't hear about much in the black community. When there are specials about black Americans, you don't hear anything about him. I think because the way he died black people don't mention him.
Well, that's all for now. I hope you like what I wrote. It came from the heart. Oh yes, I said my father and Sam were the same age. I was only 7 years old when my father died at age 33. It was on Aug 11, 1964 -- exactly four months earlier than Sam.
Harlem Square Album Creates Another Cooke Fanby Nathan Resika
I'm from New York City, but I lived in Boston for several years where I had been studying and performing classical guitar. I was mostly interested in instrumental music at the time -- Bach, Scarlatti and anything played by Andres Segovia. I had recently discovered Jackie Wilson, having seen him do "You Better Know It" in movie shown on late-night TV. I thought this guy was incredible -- the way he did his original "moonwalk" while singing so sweetly. I started singing his songs a lot, and I mentioned him to some friends and one of them said, "Man, Sam Cooke is better." I didn't really believe him.
Several months later, after the sad breakup of my first major relationship, I was listening to the radio alone one night when I heard the live recording of "It's All Right" from the Harlem Square Club album. I didn't know it was Sam Cooke at the time, but It was so beautiful and moving it sent chills down my spine and I cried.
When the song ended, I listened carefully for the announcer to say who it was that was singing. My friend had been right! I immediately bought the cassette of the Harlem Square album and I memorized every song on it, working out my own guitar accompaniments.
Then I found the album called "The Two Sides Of Sam Cooke." When I heard his gospel stuff, I was simply speechless! The song "Were You There?" had me trembling like I really WAS there! I promptly bought up all the Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers tapes I could find and I learned as many songs as I could.
Sam is a great musical role model. Not only is he musically and interpretively superb, but his enunciation is flawless. Sam Cooke made me want to become a singer, and I'm now working on recording some of my own versions of his more obscure songs. I've had some great dates where I've serenaded the young lady with "You Were Made For Me" or "When A Boy Falls In Love." They ask me, "Did you write that?" He he, I cannot tell a lie. I simply say, "No, they're by Sam Cooke; one of the world's greatest singers."
Singing to 'Chain Gang'by Don Piper
I vividly recall hearing Sam's music on the radio when I was a little boy. When "Chain Gang" was first released in 1960 I would have been four years old, but I remember singing along to the background "huh, hah" chorus. I also remember "Cupid" and "Another Saturday Night" when they were first released. My sister is three years older than me, and our cousin, Pam, was a few years older than that. Pam had a huge collection of 45's and whenever our family went to visit Pam's family, I would get to play DJ, stacking up the 45's on the old turntable. This lasted until I accidentally broke one of Pam's records and I was fired as DJ, but I still listened! I also remember watching all the music shows on TV, such as "The Ed Sullivan Show," "American Bandstand," "Shindig," "Hullabaloo," etc. I'm sure that I saw Sam when he appeared on "Americn Bandstand" and "Shindig," although I don't specifically remember it.
I "first" rediscovered Sam's music when I was in high school. This is when I started collecting records, primarily Motown. I was the class oddball because I was a white boy listening to "black music." When I went away to college in 1974, I took my record collection with me. All of the black guys who lived in my dorm used to come by my dorm room whenever I was playing music. They could not believe that a white boy had all of this Motown music. At this point I had only a couple of Sam 45's, and "Cupid" was one of my favorites.
One of my closest friends was a man named Melvin Burgess. He was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago and graduated from CVS in 1965. His brother, Thomas, was a DJ on a local radio station (I don't remember which one and I can't remember his "on air" name) and Melvin had a huge collection of 45's and LP's, many of which he had obtained from his brother. When Melvin died unexpectedly in 1986, I inherited his record collection and began adding to it. I searched local record stores here in the Los Angeles area, as well as record shows.
I met a man named Ed Winfield at a local record show about 15 years ago. He was really into Sam Cooke music and had every record. This began my "second" rediscovery of Sam's music. Ed sold me my first original Sam LP's (on the Keen label - very rare and in good condition) and I was hooked. I spent the next 10 years working on this collection and I would like to think that I have nearly every original 45, LP, EP, picture sleeve, etc. that was ever released, but I'm sure there are still a few rarities out there that I don't have.
My "third" rediscovery of Sam's music was when I found the Yahoo message board and the fan club about 8 months before the LA tribute in January 2005. It has been such a pleasure to be associated with wonderful people who share the same passion for Sam's music. And, having the opportunity to meet and get to know Sam's brothers and sisters provides another unique twist to the experience, allowing me to have a sense for what it would have been like to have known Sam personally. '
Seeking Knowledge of Samby Dique Cannon-Cater
I became aware of Mr. Cooke in grade school. I heard Good News. After the first listen, I didn’t wish to jump rope any more. I played that record until her mother sent us home. Years later, my aunt introduced me to Live at the Copa. The pleasure and delight I got from listening to such brilliance was unreal. After moving from New Orleans to Los Angeles, I was captured by the sound of Wonderful World blaring from a store-front record shop. I started a record collection, and I’ve been in “seventh heaven” ever since.
The most significant adventures have been my relationships and associations with those who worked with Sam – his musical arranger, Rene Hall, and his beautiful wife “Sugar”, to name some. Mr. Hall was my musical mentor while attending Loyola Marymount University. I was afforded the opportunity to meet S.R. Crain, who insisted I call him Crain.
Crain called Barbara Cooke and arranged a dinner. She agreed, but called to cancel. After reading Erik’s book, all I can say is, go figure! As a background singer, I worked with Bumps Blackwell when he started Enactron Records in North Hollywood. We’d go to the Hungry Tiger Restaurant on Hollywood Blvd., eat the best seafood, and talk about Sam, the record business, and his failing eyesight.
I was later introduced to Bobby and Friendly Womack. Bobby loves Sam Cooke and could talk about him and Barbara endlessly. Rene Hall introduced me to J.W. Alexander – a soft spoken white haired man with a deep tan. I would see him at Motown functions, or the celebrity tennis court. He stayed active and fit throughout all years I knew him. We would have all-night sessions discussing Sam Cooke, the songs, the business, etc.
All of these men were of outstanding character. I have not met finer gentlemen before or since. They carry the knowledge and love of Sam Cooke in their hearts, their beings, conduct, and spirits. The most rewarding moment of my adventure came when I was allowed free roam of Sam Cooke’s Los Feliz home when it was for sale. The agent gave me the code to take a look inside.
I couldn’t believe my luck! I went in singing from room to room. It was like he had just moved out. You could feel his presence – the old wallpaper, the studio with the controls set in place – it was surprising. I thought, “Who would buy a house, live in it, and not discard the prior owner’s belongings?” I surmised it was because if they left it the same, people would believe them when they say, “We bought Sam Cooke’s house!”
For me, I got a real sense of how he lived. My latest pleasure was meeting other “Cookies” in Chicago in 2006 – his children (especially Sharon), L.C. Cooke (a gentleman and scholar), the rest of the family (style and class), and a special mention for gracious Aunt Agnes and her husband Joe. Thanks for sharing breakfast with Tony and I; we will forever cherish the memory.