Two Forgotten Friday Favorites: Sam Cooke

Friday, July 23, 2010

Like Roy Orbison, I believe the late Sam Cooke deserves his own movie biography. He wrote and sang several hits that topped the charts in the late 50s/early 60s, made the transition from gospel to soul music, and founded his own record label. And not to sound superficial, but he was tres handsome, too. Aretha Franklin said on a PBS documentary about Cooke's life called Sam Cooke: Legend that he quite effortlessly took women’s breaths away with his handsome looks and charismatic charm.

He also died under mysterious circumstances in 1964 at the age of 33 - the official police record stated that he was shot to death by a motel manager who thought Cooke was trying to rob her. Cooke was staying at the motel with a woman named Elisa Boyer, whom he had met earlier in the evening. Cooke's sister maintained that her brother, who was married at the time of his death, "...was first class all the way. He would not check into a $3 a night motel; that wasn't his style." And the great Etta James recounted in her autobiography years later that she viewed Cooke's body at the funeral home and his injuries were far worse and sinister than a simple gunshot wound.

Whatever the cause of death, Cooke leaves behind a remarkable legacy of music: hits such as You Send Me, Cupid, Chain Gang, I Love You For Sentimental Reasons, Wonderful World, Bring it on Home to Me, We're Having a Party, Another Saturday Night and Twistin' the Night Away. He also wrote a civil rights anthem called A Change is Gonna Come which Seal re-recorded a couple of years ago.

Needless to say I had a hard time deciding which two songs to highlight, so I picked a contrast of styles: You Send Me (because it's so beautiful and I haven't heard it on the radio in years) and one that makes me want to dance: Shake. Now c'mon, Hollywood - make a movie about this man - stat!

Cooke doesn't actually appear in this video, but I love the vintage dance clips!


  1. A Sam Cooke movie (only if told from the right perspective) would indeed be wonderful to see. His former record label announced last year a movie is in the planning stage, but I've yet to hear of any further developments.

    Erik Greene
    Author, "Our Uncle Sam: The Sam Cooke Story From His Family's Perspective"

  2. Erik - thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I just checked out your site and your book sounds wonderful! It's definitely going on my must-read list.

  3. I got his greatest hits tape about20 years ago and hadn't listened to this for a long time but I'll be putting it into my walkman soon. He is such a wonderful singer. Thanks for reminding me about him. I did not know about the horrible way in which he died.

  4. Thank you for recognizing the fact that Sam's accomplishments have been overlooked, Pam. He was truly a talented artist that hasn't been given the credit he deserves on a grand scale...but I'm working to change that! :-)

  5. You're welcome, Erik, and ditto! It's hard to believe more people today don't know about him and all that he accomplished.

    LaraAnn - I lent my mother his greatest hits CD a while ago and she still hasn't given it back to me!

  6. And to LaraAnn, there were a lot of things happening behind the scenes in Sam's life that have me convinced the story of his death as told is a complete farce. I've read the Etta James biography--"Rage to Survive"--that Pam speaks of and though I chose not to get as graphic as she did about the condition of his body, I will say there were others that were horrified when they saw what he had been through. Truly a shame.

  7. I was wondering about that, Erik, but was afraid to ask. Such a tragedy and so sad.

  8. For more than 45 years, Sam's legacy has been tarnished by the seedy circumstances surrounding his death. Truth is, Sam died because to some people he was worth more dead than alive, plain and simple. To die as a result of others' greed is the real tragedy.

  9. You know I started to leave a comment saying I had no idea that Sam Cooke had been murdered, but's it's starting to come back to me now. What a horrible tragedy.

    You Send Me: Amazing

    My father was a big Sam Cooke fan. I need to get on that wagon!

  10. Wow, I had no idea he'd died so tragically! Great videos as always.

  11. Nice videos. Thanx for that!
    you brought joy to my grey morning at work!


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