Sam Cooke - Portrait Of A Legend (Clear Coloured Vinyl)
Format: 2 x LP
Catalogue No.: 7187861
Release Date: 15 Oct 2021
‘Black History Month’ – clear vinyl edition
Portrait of a Legend 1951-1964 is the career-spanning 31 track collection of music pioneer Sam Cooke’s greatest works. This essential collection contains recordings from Cooke’s gospel and early R&B career as well as his pop/soul hits from the SAR, Specialty and RCA labels and has combined them with the peak of his career on his own label, Tracey Records.
30 incredible tracks including You Send Me; Chain Gang; Shake; Twistin’ the Night Away; Little Red Rooster; (What a) Wonderful World; Another Saturday Night; Cupid; Only Sixteen; A Change Is Gonna Come; Having a Party, and more career highlights. Indispensable!
80 minutes of music – all his essential hits, providing a major overview of a career that has left an everlasting mark on American music that remains indelible today more than 50 years after Cooke’s untimely death.
The songs included in Sam Cooke: Portrait Of A Legend collectively logged 273 weeks or five years and three months on Billboard’s Pop Chart and a mind-boggling 508 weeks (nine years and nine months) on the Pop and R&B charts, combined.
Features comprehensive liner notes by renowned author Peter Guralnick as well as detailed musician credits.
Now available again on double CLEAR vinyl
Sam Cooke Biography
“Sam was a dynamite artist and a fabulous humanitarian and a prince of a man.”
– Aretha Franklin
Some artists make music, Sam Cooke made history. He was an architect for soul music, combining gospel, pop, and rock n’ roll to create a model that thousands of singers would follow. With this unique combination, he precipitated a paradigm shift the reverberations from which are felt to this day.
A profound influence on successive generations of singers, performers, composers, and music entrepreneurs, Sam’s music continues to be celebrated by legions of fans throughout the world. His professional career began in earnest at the age of 15 when he became the lead singer of the famous “teenage” gospel group the Highway QC’s. Four years later, he was hand-picked by Roy (S.R.) Crain, manager of the Soul Stirrers, the top gospel group in the country, to replace the legendary R.H. Harris as their lead singer. At this juncture, Sam began his writing and recording career on Specialty Records with such gospel classics as “Nearer To Thee,” “Touch The Hem Of His Garment” and “Be With Me Jesus.” In short order and over the course of just six electrifying years, he would become gospel’s biggest star, establishing a new standard for expression, with a devoted following.
At the height of his fame in the gospel world and with the blessing of his father, a Baptist minister, Sam, together with producer Bumps Blackwell, left Specialty Records in 1957 on a creative course towards secular, popular music. Cooke broke through immediately with his self-penned “You Send Me,” written under the pseudonym of his brother, L.C. Cook, although fans quickly recognized Sam’s signature style. “You Send Me” shot to the top of the R&B charts and knocked Elvis’s “Jailhouse Rock” out of the top spot of the Pop chart before the end of the year. “You Send Me” was the first of twenty-nine Top Forty hits for Sam, solidifying his place as a commercial artist and innovative pop stylist. Sam wrote most of his charting hits, including “Win Your Love For Me,” “Everybody Loves To Cha-Cha-Cha,” “Only Sixteen” and the timeless “(What A) Wonderful World.”
By 1958, Sam was in high demand due to his newfound solo success; he signed with the William Morris Agency and appeared on numerous television programs, including The Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand. Sam performed for the first time at New York City’s world-famous Copacabana in 1958, a nightclub previously off-limits to rhythm and blues singers. Harry Belafonte made history in 1955 by performing there, and with his booking, Sam continued the process of opening doors formerly closed to black entertainers. Sam’s national television appearances continued on in 1958 with The Steve Allen Show, Dick Clark Saturday Night Show and more.
In 1960, Sam signed with RCA Records, where he continued to write and record such chart topping hits as “Chain Gang,” “Twistin’ The Night Away,” “Bring It On Home to Me,” “Having A Party” and “Cupid.” While show business embraced Sam Cooke the talent, Sam embraced the business of music and co-founded his own label SAR Records in 1959 with J.W. Alexander and Roy (S.R.) Crain. In the previous year, Sam established Kags Music, a publishing company also with Alexander. Sam was a trailblazer at this time, by being one of the first major artists to establish his own record company. With SAR Records, Sam sanctified and glorified his gospel heritage, producing The Soul Stirrers and The Womack Brothers. Taking a page from his own career, Sam helped transition Bobby, Cecil, Friendly Jr., Curtis and Harry Womack to become the secular pop R&B group The Valentinos. Additionally, he gave an outlet to other secular artists Johnnie Taylor, Billy Preston, and Mel Carter.
In 1963, Allen Klein negotiated a new recording deal whereby Sam gained control of the back catalog and ownership of new recordings through his Tracey Records Ltd. label. At that time, Frank Sinatra was the only other artist to exercise that degree of independence and self-determination in his own career. Everything Sam did from this point on would be by his own design and direction, and even RCA’s distribution rights of the Tracey material was limited to a 30-year term. This new deal guaranteed Sam a minimum advance of half a million dollars over three years and established Sam’s complete ownership of his work. Later, the Beatles, James Brown and other top artists would model their business endeavors on Cooke’s pioneering efforts.
By 1964, Sam was at the top of his game. Eager to be embraced as a crossover artist, he returned to the Copacabana for a week-long residency. Rehearsed and confident, the performances were a huge success and the recording, Sam Cooke at The Copa went straight to the top of Billboard’s Hot R&B chart.
At the height of his career, Sam Cooke passed away in Los Angeles on December 11th, 1964, at just thirty-three years old. His most profound and impactful contribution to his legacy would be his song “A Change Is Gonna Come,” included on the last album released in his lifetime, Ain’t That Good News. Cooke took great inspiration from Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and even performed it on stage as featured on Sam Cooke at The Copa. Sam’s deep connection with the story Dylan portrays, provided Sam with the revelation to craft what would become an anthem embraced by the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s, and provide inspiration for years to come.
A chapter of Sam’s history is featured in the play One Night In Miami… now a major motion picture currently in production. The story is based on actual events in 1964 when against all odds, Cassius Clay (soon to become Muhammed Ali) won the World Heavyweight Title from Sonny Liston and celebrated his victory at the Hampton House Motel with his 3 close friends, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown and Malcolm X. Each at critical points in their lives, the film focuses on how the four men challenge ideas about power, religion, morality and racism and prominently features Sam’s opus “A Change is Gonna Come”.
In 2005, “A Change Is Gonna Come” was voted #12 in Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” and the following year placed #3 in Pitchfork‘s “The 200 Greatest Songs of the 60s”. NPR called the song “one of the most important songs of the Civil Rights era.” In 2007 the US Library of Congress included it as one of twenty-five selected recordings placed in the National Recording Registry. According to the program (launched in 2002) The Registry “highlights the richness of the nations’ audio legacy and underscores the importance of assuring the long-term preservation of that legacy for future generations.” In 2013, the song was awarded the Songwriters Hall of Fame Towering Song Award, presented to “the creator of an individual song that has influenced the culture in a unique way over many years.”
It has been said that Sam Cooke invented “soul” and the fact that he was able to render the passion of gospel music to secular subjects underscores that assertion. He imbued his work with an otherworldly feeling and sincerity that had never before been part of the pop cannon. Authentic in every way, his very “soul” was at the root of his artistry blending sensuality, spirituality and sophistication. His brand of soulful authenticity soon became woven into the musical genre that became identified with another parallel movement: the struggle for Civil Rights.
Sam Cooke’s music and legacy endures; superstar artists around the world continue to record his timeless hits including Aretha Franklin, John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, Rod Stewart, The Rolling Stones, Thomas Rhett, Beyoncé, Amy Winehouse, Cat Stevens, Paul McCartney and many others.
Cooke’s musical, cultural and entrepreneurial impact simply cannot be overstated. At the inception of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, Sam Cooke was included in the inaugural group of artists inducted alongside performers Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and James Brown. The following year, the Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted him into its privileged ranks. By 1999 the Grammys bestowed a Lifetime Achievement Award to Sam Cooke, having received 6 nominations during his career.
Forty-four years after the initial release of “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a particular with a movement was drawn to the new timeless classic song that will outlive us all, a political campaign charged by one key word: CHANGE as it’s torch. The culmination of that movement, at the arc of the struggle for change, a newly elected President Barack Obama took to the stage in Grant Park, in Cooke’s hometown of Chicago, and spoke the words,
“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.”
While his career may have been cut short, Sam Cooke’s legacy continues on, far beyond the confines of his lifetime.
Touch The Hem Of His Garment
You Send Me
(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons
Just For You
Win Your Love For Me
Everybody Loves To Cha Cha Cha
I'll Come Running Back To You
You Were Made For Me
(What A) Wonderful World
Little Red Rooster
Bring It On Home To Me
Nothing Can Change This Love
(Ain't That) Good News
Meet Me At Mary's Place
Twistin' The Night Away
Another Saturday Night
Having A Party
That's Where It's At
A Change Is Gonna Come
Jesus Gave Me Water
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