Sam Cooke : Crossing Over | a life, a documentary, and a very determined filmmaker

My friend, John Antonelli, has been working on a documentary about Sam Cooke for 12 years. Twelve years! And tonight, the country will get to see the result, as American Masters on PBS is opening their season with the premier of John’s film.

Here is the trailer:

Sam Cooke infused the spirit of the Black church into popular music, altering the landscape of American popular music. With You Send Me in 1957, Cooke became the first African American artist to reach #1 on both the R&B and the pop charts. He proved that it was possible, with his unique (and somewhat risky) pop/gospel hybrid, to appeal to white teenage listeners as well as gospel  followers.

Within two years, Cooke was on the charts with  Soothe Me, Feel It, Bring It On Home to Me, Wonderful World, Cupid, and Twistin’ the Night Away. His music crossed over, literally, as he sang meaningful lyrics with the fervor of gospel and the romance of pop. Cooke brought us Chain Gang, written during the Civil Rights era, and the poignant and powerful A Change is Gonna Come (in 1962).

From PBS:

“Sam Cooke accomplished what no other black performer had ever even attempted, founding his own music publishing and record label, opening doors for and writing material for other artists – mentoring Aretha Franklin and launching Otis Redding. He had the courage to take an open stand against racism, refusing to perform at a segregated venue in the south and garnering the support of Dick Clark. But, his story ends abruptly at the height of his success when, at the age of 32 in 1964, he was, inexplicably, gunned down and killed in the company of a prostitute – leaving a profound legacy filled with extraordinary talent – and all the questions about what might have been.”

And John didn’t have an easy time making this film either. The San Francisco Chronicle described his experience last week, in this article.

John is partners in Mill Valley Film Group with Will Parrinello, who produced Mustang-Journey of Transformation, which I wrote about here.

John’s dedication to this project is inspiring and I am so thrilled for him. And for us. Because now we get to tune in, learn, enjoy and even sing a little. Thank you John! Please check your local PBS listings (in the Sacramento area it will be on at 9:00 Monday January 11).

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4 Responses to “Sam Cooke : Crossing Over | a life, a documentary, and a very determined filmmaker”


  1. 1 John Antonelli January 11, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Hey Kim,

    I put the link above to the San Francisco Chronicle article by Joel Selvin about the film.

    Thanks so much for doing this and we need to talk about pizza among other things.

    JA

  2. 2 Clark Hewitt January 20, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    I played for 11 years in an R&B than Rock group starting at 14 yrs old. The Union made the cops let me play in the “Whisk-a-Go-Go”, where I was a Rhythm Guitarist for Wayne Shorter and a few big acts at the time. We got picked up by Phil Graham and Concerts West in 1967 and toured 10 days and when to school for 14. Thanks again to our union local’s, uh, influence.

    Anyway, we never played with black acts. But we were an R&B band. I didn’t get this for a year or two, but this would have been dumb. We would just be covering all the songs the “A” act (last big liner) was about to play.

    We covered a Sam Cooke song, that I believe was itself a cover. I never dug into this ever. But I GOT TO SING IT ‘cuz I was the only poor bastard with the range made for “At the Dark End of the Street.” Glorious love song. Slow-ish dance tune. Most of the men could not immediately walk to their tables at the end and had to wait for nature to take its course until the inevitable tell-tale sign of teenage vigor went away. Those were the days.

    “You and me, at the dark end, of the street… you and me…”

  3. 3 Clark Hewitt January 20, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Cupid, draw back your bow…


  1. 1 retrofitting the mom with duct tape « Kim's Tour of No Regrets Trackback on January 10, 2010 at 8:53 pm

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