He was the biggest star in gospel music before he ever crossed over into pop. His first single under his own name, "You Send Me," was an historic success, going to #1 on the charts and selling two million copies. He wrote his own songs, hired his own musicians, and started his own record label and music publishing company. At a time when record companies treated black artists like hired help, he demanded respect and a recording contract equal to that of top white artists of the day.
And Sam Cooke connected to his audiences, in songs like "Wonderful World." "Chain Gang," "Another Saturday Night," and "Having A Party" — seemingly effortless compositions that still sound fresh today. In a biography that for the first time tells the full story of Sam Cooke's short, blazing life, prizewinning author Peter Guralnick captures a personality so vivid, so appealing, that it is almost impossible not to fall under his spell. At the same time Dream Boogie re-creates in remarkable detail the astonishing richness of the African American world form which Sam Cooke emerged, and the combination of style, with, and resiliency that was necessary to survive and overcome the pervasive prejudice of the day.
Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Fidel Castro Jackie WIlson, James Brown, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. are part of this story. Sam Cooke also befriended and acted as a mentor to the young Cassius Clay, and he engaged racism, the essential issue of the day, in ways both small and large: writing and recording the civil rights anthem "A Change Is Gonna Come," proudly declaring his decision to wear his hair "natural" years before other black performers stopped straightening theirs, and refusing to perform for segregated audiences in the South — a stance that provoked the threat of violence on more than one occasion.
With almost unbearable poignancy and drama, Dream Boogie tells a story at once tragic and true: Sam Cooke's rapid rise to stardom: his troubled marriage and relationship with women; his triumphant recordings and, along with Ray Charles, reinvention of rhythm and blues as soul music; the joy he brought to live performance and the rolling parties of the road tours; and the senseless wast of his death by shooting at age thirty-three.
Peter Guralnik's biography is an epic story of American life during a turbulent and hopeful age as well as a deeply moving portrayal of a complex, inspiring artist and human being.