Monday, January 11, 2010
Monday, 1/11/10, 9:00 p.m., PBS, American Masters: Sam Cooke, "Mr. Soul."
Tonight on PBS at 9:00 p.m., on many stations around the country, the series "American Masters" will feature a new one-hour feature about the remarkable Sam Cooke. It should be some pretty good TV.
In 2008, Sam Cooke's song "Change Is Gonna Come" was played widely around the country in connection with the Obama campaign for presidency. The song is so powerful, so moving, it seemed almost as if it had been written for the momentous and long-overdue occasion of a black man running for President of the United States. And winning. "Change Is Gonna Come" is a song about struggle, turmoil, the life of a poor man exhausted by poverty but struggling to go on. It's been too hard living, but I'm afraid to die ... change is gonna come. Sam Cooke wrote the song during the height of the civil rights struggle in this country. It became an American classic.
Sam Cooke was both a composer and performer. He was born in Mississippi and got his start singing in gospel groups before moving on to become a solo artist. Some people say he invented "soul" music, and he is often called "Mr. Soul."
I wonder if people have to be dead for a certain number of years before they can be fully accepted and recognized by mainstream society. Their lives chronicled on programs like American Masters. Poor Sam Cooke. An amazing performer and talent, he died at the young age of 33, gunned down in some sleazy motel in Los Angeles under circumstances which to this day remain disputed and controversial. But he gave to this county an astonishing gift of songs. "Another Saturday Night." "Bring It On Home To Me." "Only 16," "You Send Me," "Cupid," "Chain gang," "Twisting the Night Away," and "Good News" just to name a few. And endless more.
Here's a short video that discusses the career of Sam Cooke.