Had he lived, Sam Cooke would be 80 on January 22, 2011. Though his tragic death, at the age of 33, deprived successive generations of new music from Cooke, known as ‘the man who invented soul,’ his legacy and influence endure. A feature film biography, based on Peter Guralnick’s critically acclaimed book Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke, is in development.
His own catalog of original recordings continues to connect with music consumers who are now offered the possibility of hearing the core of his catalog in high-resolution digital audio by agreement between ABKCO Records and HDTracks. Four albums, Sam Cooke at the Copa, Keep Movin’ On, Ain’t That Good News and the career-encompassing compilation Portrait of a Legend 1951 – 1964 are soon to be available for download in 88.2kHz/24bit audio. Next month, The GRAMMY Museum® in Los Angeles will exhibit artifacts that reflect Cooke’s life and music in celebration of his 80th year.
In 1986, 25 years after his passing, Cooke was among the first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, alongside Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. His transition from gospel music to R&B and rock ‘n’ roll was the template followed by soul/urban performers for the past 60 years.
Cooke’s songwriting has stood the test of time with versions of his classic repertoire performed and released over the years by such notable artists as John Lennon, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, James Taylor, Seal, The Animals, Paul McCartney, Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Tina Turner, Luther Vandross, Bobby Womack, R. Kelly and countless others.
Rod Stewart recently told Rolling Stone, “To explain what Sam Cooke meant to me, it would take a couple of hours just to scratch the surface. The man basically introduced me to soul music. The first time I heard him, his music hit me like a thunderbolt and just slapped me around the head. I was 15 years old, and he changed my life.”
Aretha Franklin noted, “Sam was a singer’s singer who strongly influenced many male vocalists. He was loved, respected and revered by artists in the pop and gospel field of music, as well as by his audience, as a unique and extraordinary artist and human being.”
“Sam Cooke is somebody other singers have to measure themselves against, and most of them go back to pumping gas!” quipped Keith Richards while Muhammad Ali succinctly stated, “Sam Cooke was the world’s greatest rock-and-roll singer…the greatest singer in the world!”
Perhaps, Sam Cooke’s most influential song is “A Change Is Gonna Come” which eloquently decried racial discrimination. On the night he was elected President, Barack Obama, clearly was profoundly aware of the song when he invoked its central them stating, “It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.”
The legacy of Sam Cooke will be celebrated throughout 2011 with many radio, retail and online promotions. Check ABKCO Records for updates.
Courtesy Bob Merlis/ABKCO.