Sam Cooke: Legend
(Sam Cooke, et al / DVD / NR / 2021 / ABKCO Films)
Overview: The life and music of Sam Cooke, souls first superstar, are examined inâ€¯Sam Cooke: Legend, the Grammy-Award winning feature documentary from ABKCO Films.
The 66-minute film examines Sam Cookes extraordinary career and tells the real story of his life through accounts from family, childhood friends, musical collaborators and business associates including Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls, L.C. Cooke, and Bobby Womack, as well as Sam Cooke himself.
DVD Verdict: This first-ever biography of the definitive soul singer traces both Cookes professional and personal life - from his gospel-singing roots in the early 1950s through his R&B and pop music career to his untimely death in 1964.
Watching it we learn that he was born Samuel Cook, in the bosom of the Delta, Clarksdale, Mississippi, on January 22nd, 1931. One of eight children born to a Church of Christ (Holiness) minister and his wife, Sam moved, with his family, to Chicago in 1933.
His singing career began in a group made up of his siblings, when he was just six years old. By age 14, he had become a lead singer with the Highway QCs, a Gospel group known for producing secular singing greats.
In 1951, when Sam left the group to join the Soul Stirrers, his neighbor and friend, Lou Rawls, took his place. Two years later, when Rawls left the QCs to join the Chosen Gospel Singers, it was none other than Johnnie Taylor who succeeded him. Coincidentally, it was Taylor who replaced Cooke in the Soul Stirrers, in 1957.
The film also recounts his commitment to the struggle for civil rights underscored by his last and most enduring hit song, A Change Is Gonna Come, and highlights his transcendent and consummate popular appeal.
Just after Christmas, 1963, Cooke invited his friend and business partner, JW Alexander, over to hear a new song he had written. Inspired by Bob Dylans, Blowin in the Wind, Cooke had penned what would become the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, A Change is Gonna Come.
Cooke had heard Dylans song several months earlier and was moved that such a profound, and poignant song could be written by a white man. A bit ashamed that he had not written one like it himself, he held back in doing so for fear of alienating his predominantly white fan base, but had almost immediately made, Blowin in the Wind, part of his repertoire.
Remembering back to events in his own life, such as his arrest in Louisiana after being denied motel rooms, the die was cast for him to write an anti-racism song of his own.
Composed by Rene Hall, it was recorded on January 30th, 1964. Hall had composed such a grandiose piece, that there were 30 artists contributing to the song.
This included five backing vocalists, four guitars, a complete string section, a brass section including a french horn, and kettle drums.
Cooke performed the song only once, on Johnny Carsons Tonight Show, just 8 days after recording it. His performance should have been a career milestone, but it was overshadowed by the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, two days later. The song was not released until December 22nd, 1964, two weeks after Cooke was killed.
Sam Cooke:â€¯Legendâ€¯was written by best-selling author Peter Guralnick whoseâ€¯Dream Boogie: The Triumph ofâ€¯Sam Cooke, is widely recognized as the definitive biography of the musical giant.
â€¯The documentary is narrated by Tony Award winning actor Jeffrey Wright (Basquait, Angels In America, Ali) and was directed by Mary Wharton and produced by Mary Wharton, Robin Klein and Mick Gochanour.
Cooke has received a great many posthumous honors. In 1986, he was among the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2013.
In 1994, he was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Rolling Stone Magazine has listed him on both their 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and Greatest Singers of All Time, lists.
In closing, Sam Cooke: Legend is a comprehensive look at a figure who is, arguably, one of the most influential musical forces of the twentieth century and whose legacy resonates to the present day.
Interviews with: Lou Rawls, Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, Luigi Creatore, Lloyd Price, Lou Adler, Linda Cooke-Womack (Zeriiya), L. C. Cooke, Charles Cook, Agnes Cook-Hoskins, and Magnificent Montague
Official DVD Purchase Link
Sam Cooke: Legend (Official Trailer)