The life and music of Sam Cooke, soul’s first superstar, are examined in Sam Cooke: Legend, the Grammy® Award winning feature documentary from ABKCO Films, now streaming on Amazon Prime. The 66-minute film examines the extraordinary career and tells the real story of his life through accounts from family, childhood friends, musical collaborators and business associates along with Sam Cooke himself. It traces both his professional and personal life – from his gospel-singing roots in the early 1950’s through his R&B and pop music career to his untimely death in 1964. The film 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.
Sam Cooke: Legend includes on-screen commentary from Aretha Franklin who shares an intimate recollection from her youth as well as from Lou Rawls whose voice is heard in counterpoint to Cooke’s on “Bring It On Home To Me.” Immediate family members including brother L.C. Cooke and daughter Zeriiya Zekkariyas offer insight into the man who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the institution’s inception while Andrew Loog Oldham, Rolling Stones’ original manager, acknowledges the moment Cooke’s tour of the UK left a generation of young musicians like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison and Rod Stewart enthralled as well. Also seen is Bobby Womack who, early in his career, enjoyed a rewarding musical relationship with Cooke who produced his hit “It’s All Over Now,” later covered by The Rolling Stones a story referenced in One Night In Miami. Cooke’s gospel roots are discussed by LeRoy Crume of the Soul Stirrers, the seminal group that Cooke joined as a teen.
Sam Cooke: Legend includes newsreel footage of the newly-crowned champ spotting Sam Cooke in the crowd and inviting him into the ring exclaiming, “Let that man up! This is Sam Cooke! This is the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll singer!” That same frantic and jubilant scenario is depicted in the film One Night In Miami.
Born January 22, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi and raised in Chicago’s South Side, Sam Cooke was the son of a Baptist minister. He started singing in the Church choir as a child and, encouraged by his father, joined with his siblings to form a gospel group, the Singing Children. By the time he was a teenager, he had achieved significant success within the gospel community on the strength of his distinctive vocal style, and in 1950 he was asked to replace legendary singer R.H. Harris as lead vocalist of The Soul Stirrers.
Cooke crossed over into the world of popular music in 1957 and shot to the top of the R&B and Pop charts with his self-penned “You Send Me.” From that time on, he was never out of the Top 40, with smash hits like “Wonderful World,” “Chain Gang,” “Cupid,” “Twistin’ the Night Away,” “Another Saturday Night” and “Shake.” His success didn’t surprise Aretha Franklin, who had long before seen him perform at her father’s church.