23 February 2009

Sam Cooke

Once upon a time there was a little Christian boy named Samuel Cook. He sang all them Jesus songs in the church choir up in Chicago. But then he went prodigal, changing his name to Sam Cooke, singing that devilish secular music (Gershwin) and getting all mixed up with prostititties.

Fortunately Sam Cooke will always be most well-known for his sweet, smooth vocals and doo-wop love songs. A vast multitude of artists cite him as an influence or idol, such as Otis Redding, who covered "Wonderful World," "Change Is Gonna Come," and "Shake" on Otis Blue. I read an Otis Redding biography once and he was talking about how ashamed he was of his rough voice in comparison to Cooke's. He idolized Cooke so much that he stole those patented Huh's and Ha's that can so often be heard in Cooke's (and Redding's) songs. I guess we all live in somebody's shadow.

About two years before his death in December 1964, "Live at the Harlem Square Club" was released. It shows a more rowdy side to Cooke and his songs. It sounds like Cooke is having a really good time and has the audience eating out of his hand for the entire show. His vocals are a little less restrained than on record, which gives this album tons of energy. This album also shows off the handy sax work of King Curtis, an Atlantic/Atco studio musician who headed Aretha Franklin's backing band. This is a really great excerpt from a career by one of the greatest singers of all time.

Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963

Track Listing:
1) Feel It
2) Chain Gang
3) Cupid
4) It's All Right/For Sentimental Reasons
5) Twistin' the Night Away
6) Somebody Have Mercy
7) Bring It On Home To Me
8) Nothing Can Change This Love
9) Having a Party

Here also is a video of Sam covering Dylan's "Blowing in the Wind," a song that consequently inspired Cooke to write "A Change Is Gonna Come."