Thursday, June 08, 2006

38. Sam Cooke - Live At The Harlem Square Club (1963)

Track Listing

1. Feel It
2. Chain Gang
3. Cupid
4. Medley: It's All Right/For Sentimental Reasons
5. Twistin' the Night Away
6. Somebody Have Mercy
7. Bring It on Home to Me
8. Nothing Can Change This Love
9. Having a Party


Truly one of the great live albums. When I was a kid, me and my parents used to go out every weekend and explore castles around the place where I lived in Évora (about 1 hour away from Lisbon by car). As you can imagine there were quite a lot of them. The tape selection was limited and one of them was the Best of Sam Cooke, so it always reminds me of the little towns around Évora, like Borba, Estremoz, Vila Viçosa. I'm sure you all know them heh. So, it was quite a pleseant surprise to listen to this particular album. In fact, it is very different from the studio versions of the songs which I know by heart. Much funkier and more fun than what I was used to.

Frankly this is much superior to Sam Cooke's studio recordings, the way in which he feeds off the public's attention and love is amazing. It almost reminds me of religious music like in Pakistani Qawwalli where the performer is really there to make the public get into a trance. Maybe he was just on drugs. You get kind of the same feeling you do with Muddy Waters here, although the music approaches James Brown more than blues.

That sexy James Browniness is what's cool about this album as well. That rapport with the public, who make as much part of the album as Sam himself. And more than anything it is the King of Soul at his prime. So, please get it, buy it, steal it... not available on Napster, but it is on Amazon UK and US.

Track Highlight

1. Chain Gang
2. Bring it on Home
3. Cupid
4. Medley: It's All Right/For Sentimental Reasons

Final Grade



From Wikipedia

Sam Cooke is considered by music critics and fellow artists alike as the most important singer in soul music history.

The title "the king of soul" is often over-used but Sam Cooke's legacy is a very big one. He had 29 Top 40 hits in the U.S. between 1957 and 1965. He is therefore seen by many as "the creator" of the genre. Major hits like "You Send Me", "Chain Gang", "What a Wonderful World" and "Bring It On Home To Me" are among some of his very best work.

Cooke was also among the first modern black performers and composers to attend to the business side of his musical career, and founded both a record label and a publishing company as an extension of his careers as a singer and composer. He also took an active part in the Civil Rights Movement, paralleling his musical ability to bridge gaps between black and white audiences.

His Mysterious Death

Cooke died at the age of 33 under mysterious circumstances on December 11, 1964 in Los Angeles, California. Though the details of the case are still in dispute, he was shot to death, apparently by Bertha Franklin, the manager of the Hacienda Motel, where Cooke had checked in earlier that evening. Franklin claimed that Cooke had broken into the manager's office/apartment, in a rage, wearing nothing but a shoe and an overcoat (nothing beneath it) demanding to know the whereabouts of a woman who had accompanied him to the motel. Franklin said that the woman was not in the office and that she told Cooke this, but the enraged Cooke did not believe her and violently grabbed her demanding again to know the woman's whereabouts. According to Franklin, she grappled with Cooke, the two of them fell to the floor, and she then got up and ran to retrieve her gun. She said that she then fired at Cooke in self-defence because she feared for her life. According to Franklin, Cooke exclaimed, "Lady, you shot me," before finally falling, mortally wounded.

According to Franklin and to the motel's owner, Evelyn Carr, they had been on the phone together at the time of the incident. Thus, Carr claimed to have overheard Cooke's intrusion and the ensuing confrontation and gunshots. Carr called the police to request that they go to the motel, informing them that she believed a shooting had occurred.

A coroner's inquest was convened to investigate the incident. The woman who had accompanied Cooke to the motel was identified as Elisa Boyer, who had also called the police that night shortly before Carr did. Boyer had called the police from a phone booth near the motel, telling them she had just escaped from being kidnapped.

Boyer's story was that she had first met Cooke earlier that night and had spent the evening in his company. She claimed that after they left a local nightclub together, she had repeatedly requested that he take her home, but that he instead took her against her will to the Hacienda Motel. She claimed that once in one of the motel's rooms, Cooke physically forced her onto the bed and that she was certain he was going to rape her. According to Boyer, when Cooke stepped into the bathroom for a moment, she quickly grabbed her clothes and ran from the room. She claimed that in her haste, she had also scooped up most of Cooke's clothing by mistake. She said that she ran first to the manager's office and knocked on the door seeking help. However, she said that the manager took too long in responding, so, fearing Cooke would soon be coming after her, she fled the motel altogether before the manager ever opened the door. She claimed she then put her own clothing back on, stashed Cooke's clothing away and went to the phone booth from which she called the police.

Boyer's story is the only account of what happened between the two that night. However, her story has long been called into question. Due to inconsistencies between her version of events and details reported by other witnesses, as well as other circumstantial evidence (e.g. cash Cooke was reportedly carrying that was never recovered and the fact that Boyer was soon after arrested for prostitution), many people feel it is more likely that Boyer went willingly to the motel with Cooke, and then slipped out of the room with Cooke's clothing in order to rob him, rather than in order to escape an attempted rape.

Ultimately though, such questions were beyond the scope of the inquest, whose purpose was simply to establish the circumstances of Franklin's role in the shooting, not to determine exactly what had happened between Cooke and Boyer preceding that. Boyer's leaving the motel room with almost all of Cooke's clothing in tow, regardless of exactly why she did so, combined with the fact that tests showed Cooke was inebriated at the time, seemed to provide a plausible explanation for Cooke's bizarre behavior and state of dress, as reported by Franklin and Carr. This explanation together with the fact that Carr, from what she said she had overheard, corroborated Franklin's version of events, was enough to convince the coroner's jury to accept Franklin's explanation that it was a case of justifiable homicide. And with that verdict, authorities officially closed the case on Cooke's death.

However, some of Cooke's family and supporters have rejected not only Boyer's version of events, but also Franklin's and Carr's. They believe that there was a conspiracy from the start to murder Cooke, that this murder did in fact take place in some manner entirely different from the official account of Cooke's intrusion into Franklin's office/apartment, and that Franklin, Boyer and Carr were all lying to provide a cover story for this murder.

My brother was first class all the way. He would not check into a $3 a night motel; that wasn't his style.

— Agnes Cooke-Hoskins, sister of Sam Cooke, attending the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 2005 tribute to Cooke.

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