Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke
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Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  462 ratings  ·  56 reviews
One of the most influential singers and songwriters of all time, Sam Cooke was among the first to blend gospel music and secular themes--the early foundation of soul music. He was the opposite of Elvis: a black performer who appealed to white audiences, who wrote his own songs, who controlled his own business destiny. No biography has previously been written that fully cap...more
Paperback, 768 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Back Bay Books (first published 2005)
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Sandra D
Nov 26, 2007 Sandra D rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone whose iPod is loaded with '60s R&B
My heart sank when I first cracked open this book and saw how small the print was, because I knew it would take a while to plow through and, you know, so many books, so little time, right? But the actual text was only (ha! only!) 650 pages, followed by 100 pages of voluminous notes, bibliography and index, so it wasn't as bad as I first thought.

And I really wanted to read it, because I'm a fan and because I could never reconcile how a man who seemed so polished and accomplished wound up dying su...more
this book not only gave a good look at the life of sam cooke, but also the black gospel music "quartet" movement and the story behind how of many of these gospel stars moved on to soul, rock and roll, r&b careers.

sam cooke was to be commended for demanding more ownership of his work and for starting a record company long before most other african american singers.
Ben Winch
First let me say this is not for everyone. An extremely thick book (from memory about 800 pages) on a subject who hardly seems known at all except through the Obama election campaign. Sam Cooke? Even to me, a musician and lover of Stax Records and early rock 'n' roll, the name conjured only dim recollections: of 'You Send Me' in a TV icecream advertisement when I was young, of 'Beautiful World' ('Don't know much about history...') in the film Animal House with John Belushi, of Otis Redding's ver...more
This book is extensive. I almost know too much about Sam Cooke after reading all 600 some pages. Rather, I know more than I wanted to know about everyone else in his circle from the time he was born. But I do love when Guralnick takes a detour to talk about other musicians like Jackie Wilson or Little Richard. Some of the stories from these package tours they went on are just unreal. There's also really good research into more obscure musicians, dee jays, and behind the scene players.
I've alwa...more
Mark Chadwick
May 21, 2014 Mark Chadwick rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dermott Carr
Peter Guralnick is one of the very best rock biographers. I have read a few of Peter's books with his two part Elvis biograpy (of which I only read the first volume. I hear that, in the second half of the book Elvis life does not turn out so well). "Dream Boogie" has got to be the definitive biography of a man who, at the time of his death, was arguably the biggest black recording artist in the world. (You can make an argument for Ray Charles too but Sam was at least his equal in popularity). "D...more
carl  theaker

I enjoyed the Sam Cooke story and the history around his place
in the musical era that became rock 'n roll. The author does a
good & thorough, job telling us about Sam, and also delves into
the savage machinations of the music industry - how you can have
a hit record and only make a few bucks. Other music groups and
artists also get a lot of attention, some of the fun is the name
dropping, Sony Bono as an intern, Gladys Knight a 15 year old on
the road, Jimi Hendrix wanting, and not getting, a ba...more
Mar 14, 2013 Paul rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: music
Peter Guralnick knows how to tell the history of a life, and Dream Boogie is a well-written account not just of Sam Cooke but of the history of popular music at perhaps its most significant stage. The author details the coming together - forced to varying degrees from the circumstance of segregation - of gospel and blues, art and commerce, glamour and shabbiness. Guralnick brings the glamour-and-shabbiness combination to vivid perspective in particular: while on tour and "Wonderful World" is hig...more
Sam possesses one of my all time favorite voices. There was just a pureness and clean smooth delivery with the lines he sang and the emotion he brought to each lyric. To me it seems like he never made a bad choice with every note he sang and the way he chose to phrase it. I am a huge fan, so when my friend bought me this book I was really interested to learn more about him.

I started reading this book a couple of years ago and had a hard time getting into it. At times it feels like an encyclopedi...more
I was a big fan of Gurlanick's books on Elvis, and I heard him talking about Cooke's "Change is Gonna Come" single on one of those NPR segments about single songs that are important for some reason. And since then, the idea of reading this book has kind of simmered, and since I've been summered, I thought I'd give it a shot.

I didn't think as much of it as I did the Elvis books-- I don't feel like Gurlanick really penetrated the core of Cooke's psyche as well as he did Elvis, whatever that means,...more
If you've read Guralnick's two volume Elvis biography (and you absolutely must) then you know the author is nothing but thorough in dealing with his subjects. Dream Boogie is no different as Guralnick takes the reader on an almost day by day journey of Sam Cooke's life over the course of six hundred plus pages. If you are like myself and have trouble remembering loads of characters this can get a bit confusing and it can become easy to get bogged down in the petty details but if you let yourself...more
Tim Miles
Gets a lot of points for being exhaustive (the book doesn't cover every song he did as much as it covers every recording session he ever did, with critique--which is awesome,) and reporting neutrally; on the latter, I mean that it never tries to speculate on a motive for Sam Cooke acting the way he does, at least up until his death. This wasn't a book like The Executioner's Song, where removing the authorial presence is the only way to process information, but it's cool that the book assumes you...more
Willie Krischke
It's awfully long, but for a book this thoroughly researched and detailed, surprisingly readable. It's not dry and boring, at least not for the most part. It's easy to get lost in the maze of managers, promoters, distributors, agents, producers, musicians, bandleaders, etc. covered in the book. (One thing I found confusing: J.W. Alexander is a prominent figure. Sometimes he's referred to as Alexander. Sometimes as J.W. Sometimes as Alex.)

Also, I was surprised that Guralnick didn't spend more ti...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Guralnick, the veteran music biographer best known for his two-volume study of Elvis Presley, Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love, combines meticulous research with a passion for his subject in the most complete and insightful biography of Cooke to date. Critics roundly praise the depth of Guralnick's reporting and his willingness to track down previously unused sources (the book was more than a decade in the making), though some comment that the author's exhaustive attention to detail at ti

I was very excited to read a galley copy of this book prior to its release, as Sam Cooke is one of my favorite singers. The first chapter was exceptionally well written. At the subsequent chapters, the book falls off a cliff! I wondered if the author was even the same. Despite a clear lack of source material particular to Cooke himself in his early years, the author gives a full picture of the gospel and travelling music groups in which Cooke participated, that were popular at the time. But the...more
Simone Roughouser
to be honest, i scarcely read this book. it was a tome, and there were just too many minutia of sam cooke's life. i skimmed the section about his growing up in mississippi and chicago...the description of what the gospel music scene/emerging rock scene was like at that time was interesting; the influx of african-americans from the south and it's baptist tradirtions into urban centres in the north and it's affect on music: but that was about a paragraph. then i jumped to the details of his sketch...more
Although Sam Cooke's life was amazing to me and interesting; some spots in this book dragged. I enjoyed reading of how his personality appealed to so many. He seemed like an easy going guy which made him likable. He had his faults which made his life more dimensional to me. Some sections in this book was a lot of back story that didn't seem needed. It made me lose focus and want to put the book down sometimes. I didn't because I wanted to know what was going to happen next to Sam Cooke. All in a...more
Every night when I pick this book up, I wonder if Mr. Cooke has sired any more illegitimate children while I was away.

This is an interesting look into the music business of the late fifties and sixties, giving the reader a tour of the difficulties faced by African American singers, songwriters, and musicians. I don't necessarily feel like I am peeking into Mr. Cooke's soul, and there are not a lot of first person accounts presented in the pages, but I am enjoying it nonetheless.
Steven Salaita
Anything about the transcendent, brilliant Sam Cooke is alright by me. Cooke is my favorite male American vocalist; his charisma and talent were extraordinary. (Yes, yes, I have a huge man-crush on Cooke.) "A Change is Gonna Come" is one of the pinnacles of musical genius in American history.

Guralnick's book is extremely thorough, and treats Cooke's sudden death with appropriate suspicion. (I do not, and never will, buy the official story as told by the authorities.)
Aug 08, 2007 Jason rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of music history
Shelves: research
I'm currently writing and producing a graphic novel about the life and times of Sam Cooke. This was one of the first books I started with and I felt like I was cheating while reading it - honestly, it's all there. Well read, well researched - it supplies the complete historical framework one would need to understand Sam Cooke, arguably the most important musician of the 20th century.
It's a great book for people already well-versed with studio/recording artists politics and transactions during the 1950s and 1960s, but, for what I wanted to learn about Sam Cooke's life, I had to do alot of page-turning and scanning. Up until the end, that is, since I had no idea how he'd died or that he'd died in such an unusual way.
Sam Cooke has always been my favorite musical artist. The book just justified my opinion. Of course, there was the bad side of him as there is a bad side to everyone. The book also helped me understand why folks say rock in roll came out of gospel singing - they just changed the lyrics to some of them. Enlightening facts.
Sam Cooke has always been one of my favorite singers. The story of his barnstorming during the early 60's, especially in the South, and the racism he encountered is a familiar one. As usual, his tremendous drive was key to his success. A well documented account of his all too short life.
It's a very long read, and at times painfully detailed. But no stone was uncovered, and having the glimpse into his creative process was fascinating. Also this book not onlyt chronicles Sam's career, but the "soul" movement as well. It's a committment but the payoff is there.
Too detailed for my tastes. Guralnick did massive and through research and it shows. But I felt like I was reading a day by day account of Cooke's life.
Yet someone needed to write this biography. Cooke was too important to not have an account of his life in print.
Crispin Kott
His two volume set about Elvis was fantastic, but this is probably Guralnick's best work. Cooke's smooth voice belied a complex and complicated man, and Guralnick captures that existential struggle without ever being half as pretentious as this sentence.
Feb 12, 2008 Joyce rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People interested American popular music history, or who just enjoy it
More than you even want to know in great detail.
When I read this, I also listened to his music--requested a bunch of CD's from the library. He had such a beautiful, polished sound. What a tumultuous life...so sadly ended much too soon.
This is the definitive biography about Sam Cooke. Gurlanick had unprecedented access to the Cook family, his widow, friends like Lou Rawls and Bobby Womack, and business associates to paint an engrossing and at times contradictory character study.
All of Guralnick's books are incredible....but Dream Boogie is so detailed it's almost absurd. Then again, how could you not want to know every detail about a man's life when his last words were, "Lady, you shot me!?" Indeed.
Well written and thorough; too thorough to always be an exciting read. I enjoyed learning about Cooke's circle of friends, acquaintances, and fellow musicians, it was just confusing at times. The book picked up towards the end.
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Peter Guralnick is an American music critic, writer on music, and historian of US American popular music, who is also active as an author and screenwriter. He has been married for over 45 years to Alexandra. He has a son and daughter, Jacob and Nina.

Guralnick's first two books, Almost Grown (1964) and Mister Downchild (1967), were short story collections published by Larry Stark, whose small press...more
More about Peter Guralnick...
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