Fire and Water Records: Sam Cooke

Cupid draw back your bow / and let your arrow go / straight to my listener's ears so they can hear this all new episode of Fire and Water Records! In honor of Black History Month, Ryan Daly and special guest Herman Louw shine the spotlight on pioneering singer-songwriter, the King of Soul, Sam Cooke. Tune in as the guys share their favorite Sam Cooke hits (and misses) and discuss the legendary singer's too-brief career ending in his controversial death. What's Ryan's favorite song of all time? What album does he think is perfect? Listen and find out!

Track list

  1. "You Send Me"
  2. "Another Saturday Night"
  3. "Cupid"
  4. "(What A) Wonderful World"
  5. "Only Sixteen"
  6. "Get Yourself Another Fool"
  7. "Twistin' the Night Away"
  8. "A Change is Gonna Come"
  9. "Teenage Sonata"
  10. "Shake, Rattle and Roll"
  11. "Bring It On Home to Me"

Additional songs: "One More River to Cross" by The Soul Stirrers; "Meet Me At Mary's Place", "Having a Party", "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons", "(Don't Fight It) Feel It" (Live), "Bring It On Home to Me" (Live).

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Thanks for listening!

18 responses to “Fire and Water Records: Sam Cooke

  1. I am a fan of many of Sam Cooke’s songs listed here. I didn’t know he sang “Wonderful World” also. Was Louis Armstrong the creator and Sam just did a cover of this?

    1. While I like this Sam Cooke song (that I first heard in the movie “Witness” I think), I did get it confused with Louis Armstrong’s song of the same name.

  2. Sam Cooke is among my favorite soul artists, with a distinctive voice and extensive catalog of hits. Never thought about the similarity of “You Send Me” to Nat King Cole’s work, probably because he was from an older generation requiring a more delicate touch that isn’t my bag. Cole’s delivery would have been smoother and softer, where Cooke gives it more personality and is more effervescent in his delight as the track fades.

    As a comic book nerd, “Another Saturday Night” is probably the closest I could come to relating to a Cooke song, but I can’t make similar claims that “If I could meet ’em I could get ’em, but as yet I haven’t met ’em.” Otherwise though, sitting in your room alone on a weekend tracks with a lived stereotype.

    It’s hard to call a radio hit of sixty years featured in all media and commercials underrated, but “Cupid” feels like it’s slipped a bit into the memory hole. If only for Cooke’s forcefully delivery of “QuE-PID”, much less the rest of that gorgeous chorus, it should somehow come up more. Got to be at least a top five song referencing archery.

    Likewise, “(What A) Wonderful World” is a top tier song for geometry, and the number one trigonometry single of all time. It’s a very fun number marred only by its not being the best or most memorable song of the exact same title. Alternately, “Twistin’ the Night Away” is the best twist song, bar none.

    “Only Sixteen” and “Teenage Sonata” gets into the weeds. Never heard them before. Same with “Get Yourself Another Fool”, but it’s more my speed. The downtempo cover of “Shake, Rattle and Roll” doesn’t work for me at all. I recognize that’s it’s closer to the Big Joe Turner original, but Bill Haley & His Comets’ more famous version released the same week is clearly superior (regardless of Rolling Stone PC revisionism.) I know it’s a touchy subject, but this is a rare instance of the appropriating honkies doing it best.

    Seems like a good time to transition to “A Change is Gonna Come,” objectively Cooke’s greatest and most important song. My personal favorite, however, is “Bring It On Home to Me”.

    I try to avoid commenting on the guests, but I really appreciated Herman Louw’s tales of South Africa. I love hearing on-the-ground perspective on significant historical matters.

    Looking forward to Otis Redding when you get to him!

    1. Oh I agree about Herman. Always interested in hearing diverse experiences. He actually made me think I could make an FWR about French-language music work. FOR ETHNOLOGY!

        1. Hahaha, well I don’t need Ryan, believe it or not, we all share FW Records. I just need to find time in my schedule for something like that, and though I’ve planned, even partly recorded at least 2 episodes of FWR, nothing’s really worked out yet.

          Some day… some day…

  3. Great show fellas. Loved hearing Herman’s unique perspective on loving a black musician in a country in the midst of apartheid. Behind every good man is a cool mom.

    On a personal note, this has been a rough day for me, and hearing Sam Cooke just made it bearable. Thank you for that. “Soul” indeed. Off to listen to some more!


  4. Perfect timing. I unexpectedly found myself grooving to some Sam Cooke last week. So, I enjoyed the deep dive you just provided on his work.

  5. What a fantastic musician to cover this episode! He was such a great and soulful singer. I love a lot of Sam Cooke’s music like you both. I’ve only heard bits of his live music so I’m really interested to seek out that live album you guys talked about at the end.

    Great call out for Inner Space, Herman! I think I might be the same as you that that movie was my entry into Sam Cooke music. I’m sure my parents played his stuff around the house earlier, but that movie made me sit up and take notice how amazing those songs were.

    With the way his life ended, every ballad of his is tinged with (extra) melancholia, especially A Change Is Gonna Come. What a sad and terrible way to end for such an amazing artist.

    It was great to hear all your favourite songs and the stories behind them. This was so much fun! Keep up the great work!

  6. In defense of Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, “Young Girl” is a banger about not banging her. The whole point is that the girl looks like an adult once she’s all done up, and the POV character puts on the breaks despite the girl being DTF. It acknowledges lust, but ultimately comes down on the side of morality, which is less problematic than the vast majority of songs about playing ball on grassy fields.* Everybody else, from the Beatles to Winger, have a lot more cause for being defensive.

    As for “Only Sixteen,” the song clearly references that the former couple are the same age, so the whole tangent wasn’t really necessary in this context. It’s a seventeen year old shaking his head at himself from less than a year out from what he didn’t recognize as an under-reciprocated relationship.

    *An ironic phrase in a modern context, given our depilatory age would better indicate innocence rather than nubility with regard to the presence of secondary sexual characteristics.

  7. One of my favorites is “Everybody Loves To Cha-Cha-Cha”, but now I read it as a dig at the music industry’s need to make everything sound like whatever’s popular at the moment.

  8. Thanks, Ryan and Herman. This put great songs in my head for days, and I enjoyed your personal stories also. I first learned how powerful Sam Cooke’s music truly was in high school, when my best friend showed me that if you sang the chorus of “Cupid,” one of our football coaches would start dancing right there in the cafeteria line in front of everybody!

    Herman, I’ve had friends with bizarre opinions like the one you had who also loved Sam Cooke, which is not bizarre at all. Those interactions can be exhausting.

    Ryan, regarding your dad labeling the music of his youth “oldies,” it may be that the way we think of old music has changed. A couple of years ago, I was in an ice cream parlor with my daughter, and they were playing forty year old music — ABBA, maybe. It didn’t seem out of place to either one of us. It occurred to me that if the same thing had happened when ABBA was making records, the music might have been the Andrews Sisters or Tommy Dorsey, and that would have been weird. I don’t think popular music has expanded or changed as much in our time as it did in our parents’ or grandparents’ time. Music aged faster then.

    Herman, a friend turned me on to the PBS documentary The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song (, by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. I strongly recommend it. It’s available through the PBS video app or streaming services that include PBS. Based on what I’ve learned through that documentary, I think your characterization of the Black church was a little reductive. Since you and Ryan told me all kinds of cool things I didn’t know about Sam Cooke and soul music, I will share some of what is fascinating me about the documentary.

    According to Gates, some percentage of the enslaved people brought to North America were already Christian, as early missionaries had already made their way into Africa. I didn’t know that, but it makes sense when you remember that St. Augustine was from Algeria. Obviously, many more were animist or Muslim, and those influences affected how the early Black church expressed their faith.

    Upon arrival of the first enslaved people, evangelical ministers were quick to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them. Initially, this was against the wishes of their owners, who were concerned that the teachings of the Bible would lead them to seek their freedom (spoiler: They were right). However, the planters quickly did just as you said, and began to distort the Christianity the slaves were exposed to in order to encourage docility. The show didn’t mention it, but it sounded like the same idea used with serfs in feudal times. The planters gave the slaves heavily redacted Bibles (before banning reading altogether) and literally sat in their worship services to monitor what was said.

    The show didn’t mention this, either, but to justify chattel slavery, the planters had to mutilate some theology and Biblical history for the white folks, too. When you grow up in a Southern Baptist church, this is like the family history nobody likes to talk about, but it keeps coming up.

    Of course, the slaves got hold of real Bibles, sometimes with help from anti-slavery whites, and they held their own secret services, establishing what is now called “The Invisible Institution” phase of the Black church. Dr. Gates’ guests (historians, clergy, gospel musicians, etc.) described how the person and story of Jesus resonated with the slaves — a man who volunteered to be beaten and tortured to death unjustly in order to save them, and then, as one Episcopal minister on the show put it, “Got up! He. Got. Up!”

    The church and the family were the only institutions sustaining the enslaved people of North America during their oppression. Both were constantly under attack by slave owners. The slave rebellions even started in the church. I’m embarrassed I didn’t know this before, but Nat Turner was a minister.

    Of course, the documentary doesn’t stop at slavery. It talks about how the church supported Union Army recruitment during the Civil War, helped freed people transition during Reconstruction, and fed and housed families that arrived in northern cities with nothing during the Great Migration. And of course, they talk about the church’s leading role in the Civil Rights movement. It wasn’t by accident that racist terrorists bombed Black churches.

    The documentary also talks about the victories and struggles the church has had since the Civil Rights Act, moving into racial unrest today. It isn’t all positive, as there were battles within the church as well as without, and even in the church not everyone got a fair shake. Overall, though, the message was that the Black church sustained, inspired, fed, financed, educated, and otherwise empowered African-Americans throughout their history while simultaneously helping hold white Americans accountable.

    Oh, and the music in the documentary is awesome. The Soul-Stirrers even make an appearance about 29 minutes into the second episode.

    Thanks again for the excellent edutainment, and I look forward to hearing you both again soon, either on this network or on Into the Weird.

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