Long Out-Of-Print ‘Sam Cooke: Legend’ Documentary Being Reissued 4/30 via ABKCO Films (Pre-Order)


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In 2003, a documentary film chronicling the life and career of Sam Cooke was released — and with Cooke on folks’ minds lately thanks to Regina King’s acclaimed film One Night in Miami (in which Leslie Odom Jr. portrays Cooke), the documentary is being reissued on April 30 via ABKCO Films.

The 66-minute doc won the Grammy Award for Best Music Film in 2004, so its re-release comes with anticipation.

Per our Rock Cellar Store, where you can pre-order a copy of the film right now:

Sam Cooke: Legend, the Grammy® Award winning feature documentary, examines the life and music of Sam Cooke through accounts from family, friends, musical collaborators and business associates, including Aretha Franklin, L.C. Cooke, and Bobby Womack. The film traces Cooke’s professional and personal life and recounts his commitment to the struggle for civil rights. The film was written by best-selling author Peter Guralnick and narrated by Tony award winning actor Jeffrey Wright.

More details on the life, career and premature passing of Sam Cooke and the documentary, per a news release:

The DVD re-release includes a 3,000-word biography of Cooke and a comprehensive discography of his recordings, highlighting ABKCO’s Sam Cooke Remastered Series.  Beyond that the DVD’s extra content, running in  excess of 4 ½ hours and not seen in the streaming version, is highlighted by additional interview footage with numerous of Cooke’s contemporaries including the aforementioned Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls, Lloyd Price, Lou   Adler, Bobby Womack and music producer Luigi Creatore.  Family members seen in the extra footage include Linda Cooke-Womack (Zeriiya), L. C. Cooke, Charles Cook and Agnes Cook-Hoskins plus “Burn Baby Burn” radio personality Magnificent Montague.

The film chronicles Cooke’s struggle to make it in the world of popular mainstream music culminating in his triumphant engagement at New York’s Copacabana in the summer of 1964.  From his birth in the Mississippi Delta through his family’s move to Chicago and the realization of his gift as expressed in his early gospel work, continuing through his change to secular music, his life can be viewed as a microcosm of the struggle for recognition and opportunity by African Americans in the mid-20th century. 

Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi and raised on 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. 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 earlier seen him perform at her father’s church. She  commented, “Sam was a prince of a man. He just had everything going for him. Sam had the looks, he had the voice, he had the manner, he had the charm, he had the savoir faire.”  A triumphant early-‘60s tour of the U.K. left a generation of young musicians like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison and Rod Stewart enthralled as well.

A champion of creative rights who wrote much of his own material, Cooke was among the first artists to recognize the importance of owning the publishing rights to his own compositions. He later established his own record  label and business empire to better realize his far-reaching musical ambitions.  

Refusing to perform for segregated audiences in the South, Cooke utilized his stature as a performer to help break down the color lines separating blacks from whites, and in the process became, along with his friend Muhammad Ali, a symbol of the new Black American. Further inspired by Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Cooke wrote “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a song that would become an anthem of the civil rights movement after Cooke’s senseless shooting death in December of 1964. Sam Cooke was 33 years old at the time and more than 34 years have passed since then but interest in his life and work is stronger today than ever before.


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