I’d always loved music. I just didn’t know it. It was my Uncle Walt (Disney) who’d introduced me to it. I danced along with the Mouseketeers and wore my coonskin cap when I sang the theme from the Davy Crockett show. But music was always supplemental to my first love, Storytelling and its cousin Movies.
We mostly popcorned at our local suburban bijou, the Meralta. The first movies I saw there, again from Uncle Walt, had memorable music, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Peter Pan, The Great Locomotive Chase starring Davy Crockett (Fess Parker)! I’d turn my Red Flyer wagon into a locomotive or Captain Nemo’s Nautilus, or I’d “fly” around singing “You Can Fly” from Peter Pan. And, of course, there was that most musical movie of all, The Wizard of Oz! But interestingly…
My first “pure music” experience was at the Meralta, as well. We’d gone to see some long-since forgotten B-picture. But before the movie began, the theater manager told us, we were in for an unusual treat, a live musical performance! Then he welcomed an unknown singer, a handsome young guy (Mom noted) named Sam Cooke.
Sam plugged his electric guitar into something that looked like a really big radio, an amplifier. I’d never seen or heard of either, nor had I any clue that there was such a thing as “popular music.” Sam began with a tune he’d written, one that would become a landmark in music history.
“You Send Me” was one of the first songs ever to crossover from R&B onto popular music charts, and is still considered one of the 500 greatest songs of the 20th century. Sam sang two more tunes, including his soulful take on Gershwin’s “Summertime” (he also pioneered soul music). And then, we were all given free copies of his first 45 release, featuring both songs!
I played that 45 until the grooves wore off. But the real “groove” never wore off. My first exposure to live music had introduced me to one of the greatest singer/songwriters in music history. Sam Cooke planted a seed in me for a new love. Music would live in my heart alongside stories and movies for the rest of my life.
I began playing guitar and writing songs a decade later when the seed and the need that Sam had planted became a full-grown sapling.
Nowadays, interestingly enough, I’ve come full circle: I mostly write music for the movies I make. So, thank you, Sam…
For more than I’ll ever knew.