Sam Cooke on American Bandstand

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I watched an American Masters special on Sam Cooke last night on PBS, and now I'm feeling Sam Cooke crazy. No one has ever sang like Cooke. I think he might be my favorite male singer of all time. There's something about the effortless grace of his singing that touches me even in the simplest songs (and many of his songs were very simple). It has the lightness of great pop music, but it also has the depth of great soul music. Very few can combine those two qualities - Al Green and Michael Jackson come to mind - and Sam can out-sing almost any of them.

As you can see from Cooke's conversation with Dick Clark above, he was also a businessman. He ran his own recording and publishing operations, and nurtured other talent as well.

If you're interested in learning more about Cooke, check out this hour-long show we did on him some years ago with Peter Guralnick. Guralnick's book about Cooke, "Dream Boogie," is wonderful as well.

If you want to dip your toes into his musical catalog, I love Live at the Harlem Square Club, a live album that showcases his more gospel-y performance style.


The Intimate Side of Sam Cooke

Dream Boogie isn't the definitive Bible on all things Sam Cooke. To those who don't know a lot about the Sam Cooke story or didn't know Sam in person it may seem like a great read, but Guralnick relied on Allen Klein's input and accepted as gospel the recollections of one of the most infamous managers in American music history. The result? Guralnick painted one of the most outgoing and talented artists in the 20th century as a dark and menacing character deserved of his dubious fate, in addition to perpetuating a lot of factual errors and unbelievable scenarios. Forgive me for not sharing your Dream Boogie love.

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