“I was boooooorn by a river, in a little tent. Oh and just like the river I’ve been running, ever since. It’s been a loooooong a long time comin’ but I know; a change gonna come. Oh yes it will.” -Sam Cooke
Have you ever met someone who makes your heart sing? Have you ever listened to a song that you felt was written for you? Have you ever been introduced to something or someone by word of mouth only to have it/them become such a blessing all you can do is shout about their goodness in your life?!
I have. His name is Sam Cooke. One of the greatest and most influential singers and songwriters of all times. As a child, I remember my parents always listening to music: my Mother listened while she was cleaning the house or doing something she didn’t too much care for. She would tell me,”Music motivates me during boring tasks and I love to dance!” My Father listened to music after work and on the weekends. He would tell me, “Music relaxes me; good music is something no one can ever take from me. I know it exists.” Two separate reasons to love music, one great big inspired 5 year old.
Over the years, I learned to take my parents advice and listened to songs that encouraged me. R&B is my favorite; taught me about how hard people love. Gospel music seemed to bring everyone around together. Classical music helped me to concentrate while studying, and children’s songs helped me read and write the words to songs. The patterns of the music helped me to march to the beat of my own drums. Sam Cooke helped with it all.
I have never in my lifetime heard a voice or felt so connected to anyone like Sam Cooke. His voice is so clean and crisp. His words so simple, yet powerful. He spoke about earthly love and his love of The Lord in a way that as a child, I couldn’t tell who he was speaking about. He taught me that a love song should be what you would say to your God even if you never got a chance to experience it on Earth. Even his sad lyrics made me happy, for I could tell he gave it all and truly connected with his passions, thennnn his audience. He reached EVERY race during a time when division was completely acceptable. He wrote his own music and planned his career even as a child. He used to sing to popsicle sticks! He worked hard, loved hard and played hard. Growing up, his songs would have all the adults in the room crying or waving their hands in the air, because he soothed their souls. Sam Cooke was a regular in our household- one of those artists my Mother would dance her heart out listening to and my Father’s singing could be heard through the vents. My very first CD was his. I’m pretty sure I took it out my Dad’s collection, but he never asked for it back. I used to listen to his greatest hits daily. Still do. I cannot not listen to him when in the kitchen. He has taught me so much and helped me through some difficult times. Now that’s a great artist: When your music reaches a child’s heart decades later, causing them to inquire about their history and believe that a change will in fact, come. I cook with a song of Sam in my heart. I never can get the words out as to how much I love and admire this man’s work, because it is deeply rooted. I just always prayed for his help and inspiration. As an adult, I was gifted a biography written by Peter Guralnick titled, “Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke.” A wonderful read indeed, but there is one excerpt that sums up why I love him so:
“It is said Mr. Cooke absorbed every lesson that was put in front of him and said, ‘I don’t even know why I do what I do. When I do it, it just comes.'”
Talk about humility and letting God use you. Today marks his birthday. He would have been 82. It is because of his music and seeing what he did to the hearts of millions that I am able to walk upright and do what I do. (Even through the struggles.) May he rest in peace knowing a change is coming, one person at a time.
Twistin’ The Night Away,
The Smitten Chef