Wednesday, August 15, 2007

No. 106: Portrait of a Legend 1951-1964

Band: Sam Cooke
Album: Portrait of a Legend 1951-1964
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Considering he basically invented what we know as soul music, Sam Cooke is uber-important.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I'm unfamiliar with most of the songs and I'd be lying if I said they weren't a little dated.
Best song: "A Change Is Gonna Come" is a wonderfully prescient civil rights anthem.
Worst song: "Jesus Gave Me Water" isn't up my alley.
Is it awesome?: Sure.

Without Sam Cooke, we don't have Otis Redding. And for that, his place on this list is incredibly important. Ask any rock and roll historian and s/he'll say that Sam Cooke is hugely important in the development of soul music; He's the James Brown of soul music (in the innovator/creator way, not the funky way).

By taking his gospel roots from his days growing up in Chicago and adding the pop music of the time styling, soul as we knew it (not necessarily as we know it today, but that's a different story) was birthed. The lilting diction, the holding notes on melodies and the "ooohs" used by most soul singers were popularized by Cooke.

The songs have some rock elements in them; Soul music has a lot of rock in it. There are plinky guitar licks in "With Your Love For Me" and a Ringo-esque intro drum fill on "Another Saturday Night."

For those of my age, this is what dusties were when I was growing up (that's since switched to more '70s-era stuff). Oldies for soul music, basically. The kind of thing Dick Biondi would play if he was black.

It's great, but it's dated. And it's important. Very important.

1 comment:

SoulBoogieAlex said...

Sam Cooke is one where you might be missing the point. It's not Soul has a lot of rock in it, it's the other way around. Without folks like Sam Cooke, the Isley Brothers, Ray Charles and Willie Dixon, there would never have been a Rolling Stones or a Beatles. Sam was shot in '64, so of course he's going to sound dated. But truth tell, so do the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Stones. It is for a reason that people call a new act "retro" when they sound to much like them. But I'm telling you, Sam's voice.......that's something of such a rare beauty that will never become outdated. There was never a vocalist quite like Sam after that. Go back to the album and give "Bring It On Home To Me" another spin or pick up "Night Beat"for some rare clarity.