VIDEO: ‘Soul King’ a delight as it follows Sam Cooke through storied career

The smooth sounds of Sam Cooke poured out into a big crowd at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre Saturday, Sept. 29.

Fans had arrived early, anticipating that Soul King would a great show, as it previously had lit up smaller stages in the Cowichan Valley. There was a buzz in the lobby, and it continued upstairs as friends and family of the cast joined the throng of music lovers.

When the main character, Cooke, played by Michael Clarke, finally began to tell his story, everyone was ready.

And what a story it was, with Clarke starting at the end and showing how it appeared Sam Cooke died, and then going back to the beginning.

From his first note, everyone knew it was going to be a special performance. Clarke can really present that sweet soul music. We’re not talking Otis Redding or Aretha Franklin here, though. Cooke was no shouter and neither is Clarke.

This was supper club soul, warm as a southern breeze, but also elegant: the epitome of cool.

Cooke may have started his life as a choirboy and followed that into a successful stint with the Soul Stirrers, then the kings of black gospel, but his tale also included several wives and children, failed relationships, and, most shocking to his original fans, the leaving behind of his gospel roots for the lure of the bright lights of popular music.

In presenting his fascinating musical story, Clarke was ably abetted by Crofton’s Glaucia Desrochers, whose dark-toned voice added delicious chocolate caramel to his golden honey, making for a tasty stroll into soul.

Other cast members included Sarah Carlé, Andrew Wilson, Donn Tarris, Alan Kerr, and Alicia Murray.

Producers Judith and Gerry Fewster, of Cedrick’s Tea and Coffee House, had the idea that their non-profit coffee shop could donate its profits to KIDS International, a Vancouver-based registered charity. They’ve seen that thought put down roots, and blossom into a sustainable business model that brings communities together.

The production of Soul King has been donated to the cause, with all profits from the show going to Cedrick’s to help with the operating cost and continue to create awareness and donate to KIDS International Development Society.

Fewster is enthusiastic about Soul King.

“Like Irish Rovers legend Will Millar, we believe that Soul King is ‘magic’ and can hold its own with any of the major touring companies across North America. That’s a huge compliment for a show that was born in the Cowichan Valley and features local actors and musicians,” he said.

Singing gospel songs like ‘Jesus Gave Me Water’ with the famous Soul Stirrers, Sam Cooke (performed by Michael Clarke) was responsible for really packing churches wherever the group sang. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)
’He’s My Friend’, sung by co-host Glaucia Desrochers, is another great gospel tune. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)
Moving from gospel to pop started with songs like ‘Wonderful/Loveable’. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)
Once ‘You Send Me’ was released, Cooke’s future as the king of silky soul seemed assured. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)
He also penned a version of Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’, sung in the show by Desrochers. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)
During a talk with his father, Pastor Cooke, young Sam says not all secular music is like the stuff sung by the outrageous Little Richard. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)
Cooke meets up with an old flame, who bore his child when they were teenagers, and the pair sing ‘Only Sixteen”. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)
Dance songs were popular in the late 50s and early 60s, and Cooke enjoyed getting into the swing of it with “Everybody Loves to Cha cha cha”. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)
But, by 1964, when soul was moving towards hotter music like ‘Shake’, Cooke found himself in a bit of trouble. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)
During a night out with a woman, he finds her more than he can handle. She knocks him sideways, takes his trousers and cash and then decamps, the story says. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)
Later that night, trying to get his possessions back, a half-clad Cooke apparently showed up where the girl lived, and ended up getting shot by the terrified landlady. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

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