Night Beat (RCA Victor)
A very important album that inspires me is Night Beat by Sam Cooke. I love Sam Cooke — his voice carried so much life and so many layers of emotion and spirit. This album is my favorite because of the elegance and sense of longing, hope and despair. It’s very bluesy. The musical arrangements allow the most deep-seated truths to shine through – it’s like the divine joins in and flows through his voice. My favorite song on the album is “Lost and Lookin’.” It’s so simple and stark instrumentally.
You can feel how haunted he is as he sings the most heartbreaking song. I found out later, when watching the documentary about him, that his life was full of tragedy. His son drowned in the pool at home while he was at work around the same time the song was written. I tried to cover this song once, well before I knew the actual story. I was imagining it as a sad love song, but the reality is it had so much more depth and grief behind it, which I didn’t know about nor was ready to comprehend at the time. I’d like to revisit it as a cover someday because there’s a beauty in that sadness that I find moving.
Everything about Sam Cooke’s artistry inspires me and has done so for many years. I keep finding new elements of his music resonating differently every time I listen to his songs. Every time I listen it’s like rediscovering him all over again.
Emmanuelle June’s “Snake Spit” is out now.