The Man Who Invented Soul
Sam Cooke


Mar 06, 2019

An Unrestrained Live Performance Brings A Whole New Perspective To Sam Cooke’s Music

Across the last century of popular media, there’ve been a handful of musicians so prolific that they’ve earned themselves legendary titles amongst listeners, whether it be Michael Jackson’s ‘King Of Pop’ moniker, Funk visionary George Clinton’s well-deserved ‘King Of Funk’ title or the colloquial term of endearment ‘The Boss’ attributed to the spirit of American Rock music himself Bruce Springsteen, but only one royal entity comes to mind when you hear the term ‘King Of Soul,’ that being the infallible Sam Cooke, Motown & Soul’s short-lived guardian angel of the fifties & sixties music scene. Cooke was a legend amongst his peers, paving the way for such prolific acts as Marvin Gaye & Aretha Franklin, but – unsurprisingly – the majority of those who recognize his music have absolutely no idea how impactful he was as an artist & personality as his decidedly African-American-leaning sensibilities were painstakingly downplayed by industry execs who wanted him to pursue a more mainstream Pop identity, his producers literally white-washing his music for the sake of record sales instead of capitalizing on the extreme power he had to move Black audiences to action with his intimately-relatable performances & lyrics; I mean, if you were to poll mainstream listeners from the last three decades, they’d likely all describe him as being nothing more than a quaint little Diner-Pop performer whose music you’d find in cheery period-pieces about wholesome sixties-era ideals, as his legacy has been watered-down to present only the most idyllic character who aligns with mainstream interests – One glaring example of this effort to de-Black-ify Cooke is his incredible 1963 record Live At The Harlem Square Club, 1963, a record his label refused to release until 1985 because RCA Victor “viewed the album as too gritty and raw and possibly damaging to his Pop image, quietly keeping the recordings in their archive.” Cooke’s ability to capture the unspoken anguish of the African-American existence & his intoxicating stage-presence drove the audience wild, the raucous event creating much more auxiliary noise & astonishingly-disruptive behaviour than most execs had ever seen in a live performance before, thus leading them to deem the entire ordeal to be unfit for the Pop audiences they’d been aggressively marketing his more-restrained Pop music to – In no uncertain terms, the label’s prejudiced perspective of Cooke’s mesmerizing presence led them to shelve his music out of fear it would affect their bottom-line, such blatant racism even persisting up through its second-pressing as part of a 2000 box set wherein the audience was turned-down to negligible levels to maintain the softer sound the industry had advertised him as, in essence removing the very soul of this Soul musician’s work. Luckily, the 2005 remaster remedies this atrocity by giving audiences the raw, frightfully-enchanting Cooke we all deserve, culminating in a collection any classic audiophile would absolutely love to have propped-up on their night stand, a gem of an album deserving of the utmost respect for what it had initially set out to achieve.

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