I’ve written an appreciation of Sam Cooke, with some MP3s, over on the Daily Mojo. Please do check it out, as I think it’s a good piece. And if you don’t know Sam Cooke, check it out immediately. You’ll thank me.
If you’ve ever heard Sam Cooke’s voice, in songs like “Cupid”, “Twistin’ The Night Away” and “Bring It On Home To Me”, you’ll know it for the rest of your life; there is literally no other voice like it on Earth, never has been, and probably never will be. His voice was clear, strong, earthier, simpler and less operatic than that of other R&B singers like Marvin Gaye or Smokey Robinson…but when Sam Cooke sang a song it stayed sung. Even though his songs were, by modern standards, pretty simplistic, he understood what the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca called duende, the melancholy at the heart of all real beauty, and all the best Sam Cooke songs have a grace note of sadness in the middle of what is otherwise joyous rhythm and blues. “So Mister / Mister DJ / Keep those records playin’ / ‘Cause I’m-a havin’ such a good time / Dancin’ with my baby” he sings in “Having A Party”, and it’s the way he sings the word “deejay” that kills you, a minor key change that contains all the ambiguity and hope that must have gone with being a teenage or college kid in the early years of the 1960s.