Sam Cooke - Legend (2003) Review
(More customer reviews)No serious rock or pop fan should be without this excellent biography. Written by Peter Guralnick and featuring spectacular interviews with many Cooke intimates like Bobby Womack, Aretha Franklin, brother LC, and Lou Rawls this documentary, that originally appeared on VH1 in a truncated form, gets to the heart of who Cooke was.
Many fans are familiar with Cooke's spectacular singing but few know of the important role he played in the Civil Rights Movement. We find out here that he was one of the first, if not THE first, artists to refuse to play to segregated audiences. We find out how he was one of the first prominent African-Americans to let his hair grow natural instead of slicking it down to appear white. We find out about the record company he started to help young African-Americans, who might be passed over by the majors, get a chance. We find out that Cooke was one of the first performers in all of pop music to acquire ownership of his own recordings (still unheard of today).
But the real meat here focuses on Cooke's mastery as a musician. The amazingly perceptive interviews manage to explain not only Cooke's importance in both gospel and pop but actually contain insight into how he did it.
Plus there's a slew of great performance footage of Cooke singing classics like "Twistin' the Night Away", "The Riddle Song", "You Send Me" and a funny, lip synched duet with Jackie Wilson on "Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha". Plus, there's some great film of Cooke hanging out with Muhammed Ali including the two harmonizing on "The Gang's All Here". Cooke was a crucial influence on Ali's life and thinking.
The DVD also contains some worthy extras. There are more than two hours of worth of expanded interviews. Plus there's a discography and a bio. Sadly, however there is no extra performance footage not even of his classic performance of "A Change is Gonna Come" from the Tonight Show (which is not in the documentary either).
The lack of music is the DVD's chief flaw. However, the documentary has some flaws as well. The most glaring is the way it glosses over Cooke's relationship with the controversial manager Allen Klein. This isn't surprising when you consider that Klein's company ABKCO is the producer of the DVD.
More damaging is the fact that it's too short. Though this version, at an hour and ten minutes, is longer than the VH1 documentary by almost a half hour, it's still too short to cover all of the events in a monumental life like Cooke's in the detail they deserve. For instance, Cooke's initial record contract and his later signing with RCA go by in a blur with little explanation. His appointment to the leadership of the Soul Stirrers gets similar short shrift.
Fortunately, you can find this information in Daniel Wolff's wonderful Cooke bio "You Send Me". Oustide of a book store though this is the best bio you'll find. Given the limitations the producers were under this is is a wonderful introduction and explanation of the man and his music.
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SAM COOKE - LEGEND - DVD Movie