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Saturday, 3 November 2012

Sam Cooke


Sam Cooke has, in my opinion, one of the best voices of all time. It’s soft, full of emotion, it’s reassuring, kind of smokey, creamy and incredibly soothing. If ever there was a voice which could alleviate pain and hurt, I think it would be Sam Cooke’s. Listen to his soulful 'Ease My Troublin Mind' to hear what I mean. Whenever I feel blue about something, a cup of tea while listening to Sam Cooke always helps.

Samuel Cook, born in 1931, began his career with the gospel music. He was so successful as a gospel singer, that he was afraid to make a transition into pop music because he didn’t want to disappoint all the religious followers. Eventually despite his fear he made the transition into secular waters with a hit song You Send Me. We can all be grateful he did that, as he is now widely recognized as the forefather of Soul music, which is a predecessor of funk, modern R&B and others, and because he gave rise to the likes of Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, etc. If it weren’t for Sam Cooke, we would be deprived of a lot of wonderful, soulful music.
If you’re not sure what soul music is, listen to this short recording of Sam Cooke humming. I feel that within these 8 bars he explains it much better than anyone could with 8 pages of writing.

Seeing as he was a pioneer of soul music, you could say he was exploring new territory. He had to find a balance between secular pop music and religious gospel and spiritual music and he was bound to have some misses. I feel like some of his pop tunes were quite awful, but in the end he found his style. His album ‘Night Beat’ is phenomenal and is one of my favourite albums. It’s warm, emotional, bluesy, contemplative and easy to listen to. I strongly recommend it to anyone. Give it a listen! If you’re not sure you would like it, here's little taste of it.

Sam Cooke wrote and recorded innumerable great and memorable songs, but there is one which goes above and beyond and is the most important song he ever made, if you ask me. Inspired by Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowing In the Wind’ and drawing from his own experiences, he wrote a stirring and profound song about civil rights, called ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’. I think it’s a song everybody has to hear at least once in their life. It has been covered many times and it became an anthem for the African-American civil right movement in the 60’s. If you just listen to it without any knowledge of the background, it’s already a compelling and potent piece of music, but once you place it in its time and context, it becomes something more than just a tune. It becomes a haunting embodiment of things that were happening at the time. On top of all that, the song is very personal - while touring, he experienced the injustices happening in the States firsthand, and not long before Sam wrote the song, his 18 months old son drowned. All of this is reflected in ‘There were times when I thought I couldn't last for long, but now I think I'm able to carry on’ as well as in the overall weariness and emotion in the song.

But enough talking already. Just listen to the song and you’ll know exactly what I meant and much more.

 

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