Thursday, May 9, 2019

Sam Cooke: We’re talking Faith

It's been too hard living, but I'm afraid to die
Cause I don't know what's up there, beyond the sky
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
- Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke: He was perfect
He came from the church. Listen to the Soul Stirrers. But hold on. Mahalia Jackson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe never made to American Band Stand. Sam Cooke (1931-1964) did. 

It was always about Faith – in himself, in his talent, in the Lord that first heard his voice. You can’t fake faith. It’s immune to fraud. He must have known that Faith = Magic = Soul. And Sam Cooke had soul.

Artistic truthfulness is tricky. It can’t be rehearsed.  Sinatra – no slouch on straight talk – said, “When I sing, I believe… I’m honest. If you want to get an audience with you, there’s only one way. You have to reach out to them with total honesty and humility.”
Wonderful World

Somehow, nudged by a holy ghost, Sam Cooke brought the Church to pop radio.

So even when he sang an ostensible teen-sell-out ditty, like Havin' a Party, it somehow had that pixie dust of faith sprinkled everywhere.  Same thing with Wonderful World.  There’s a warmth, perhaps a background sadness to his work, where other artists raised double-tracked, chrome-plated paeans to youth’s transitory glory.

A change gonna come
Voice. Looks. Moves. Songs. He was perfect for his chosen profession, as if bespoke by an unstable though perceptive Entertainment God. To end it all drunk and naked,  bleeding to death on the floor of a midnight hotel, a bullet in the chest – to end it that way, to lose the Glory, to let the Faith slither through his hands with warm blood – it just wasn’t possible. Sam Cooke was never, ever to die that way at 33 years old. Justifiable homicide?

So he returned to where it all began, beyond the sky.

If there is indeed a Heavenly Choir, it sounds a lot like Sam Cooke.