Book Two: Dream Boogie

Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke, Peter Guralnick

I finished this book last night right after watching the premiere of American Idol, which got me thinking about singing styles and the overuse of melisma nowadays. It's so sad to see all those kids come into their auditions and sing in that horrible overdone style, mistaking singing around a note with just plain good singing. It was even funny to see, after five seasons, Randy saying to a contestant, "Dog, I wish you would just cut out all those runs and sing it to me straight." (Paraphrased, of course, and gratuitous "Dog" inserted for good measure.) But the point is that Sam Cooke really knew what melisma was all about. All those "whoa-oa-ohs" sounded great because that was his style, something that he created.

Before picking this book up, I knew next to nothing about Sam Cooke and could probably only attribute "Twistin' the Night Away" to him (thanks to Animal House). I mean, I didn't even know how he died (something that everyone knows, apparently, so it was kind of fun to get to that point and be totally surprised). But what a great story Guralnick tells! This goes back to my comment about the Elvis biography: it doesn't really matter what or who you're writing about if it's simply a good story. Of course, Sam Cooke's story is super interesting, and will make you want to listen to all his music over and over again. There were so many times while sitting on the couch reading this, that I would ask Chris to download such-and-such song for me to listen to, and I spent several baths reading the book and listening to the music he recorded with his gospel group, The Soul Stirrers. So that's why I'm telling you all to listen to this song: "Wonderful". You totally hear the pop-singing Sam Cooke in there, even thought it's clearly a straight-up gospel number. In fact, when Sam turned pop, he rewrote this song as "Lovable"--instead of singing about God, he's suddenly singing about a girl. And it works both ways.


Anonymous michelle said...

awesome song. i finally bookmarked your page to check for weekly Amazonesque (but better!) reviews & get ideas for some good non-academic reading. oh and yes--weren't those Idol auditions hellacious? some kids were way over the top. yeah... just sad. about "Corks", too bad it was disappointing. i know a few other food readings but since i'm greatly pressed for time will be back later to recommend.

January 22, 2007 at 4:23 PM  

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