Sam Cooke: Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963

“Cooke was elegance personified, but he works this Florida club until it’s hotter than hell, while sounding like he never breaks a sweat…when the crowd sings along with him, it’s magic.” Rolling Stone

Sam Cooke. Yes.

I was actually going to listen to a different album today but I was able to listen at work and so had to choose a more appropriate album for that at the harlem square club 1963

Sam Cooke was a bright spot that was only around for a very short time. He was only 33 when he was shot and killed. I think about myself and his accomplishments in that short of a time span makes me feel like I have not accomplished anything.

He had 30 top 40 hits between 1957 and 1964. Nice, right? Right.

Sam Cooke has influenced some big stars. Some of which include Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Bobby Womack. He has been named by Rolling Stone as the 4th greatest singer of all time.

It was kind of fun to listen to a live album. His interactions with the audience endear him to me even more. He was an engaging performer. My favorite moment while listening to this is when he asks his audience to join him. They start singing with him and it’s electric.

Sam started off as a gospel singer and eventually became a crossover pop success. In his music, you can hear that gospel influence. It has a bit of soul.

How to describe his voice? It’s smooth and gravelly at the same time. It’s…well…it’s Sam Cooke. His voice sounds like soul. His voice makes me want to move to the music.

My favorite track, or I should say moment from this performance, was about in the middle. It is “Medley: It’s All Right/For Sentimental Reasons.” He intros this song with “let’s get romantic.” I chuckled a bit when he said that but once he hit “Sentimental Reasons,” I was sold. Now, I would like to meet someone that could possibly detest this tune. It is one of my favorite 50s songs.

This performance had a lot of upbeat numbers and made you want to dance and sing right along with him. Sam was able to make a ballad out of a piece with a good, strong beat. There is a lot of sax and a lot of drums. This album, to me, is the quintessential 1960s album. It just sounds like the early 1960s. Luckily, that is exactly when it was recorded! This album was recorded only a year before Sam Cooke’s murder. I want you to take a moment just to stop and think about the music that could and would have been created had that event not transpired. Man, this world really lost out.

Now, go listen.


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