Carla Cooke, daughter of legend Sam Cooke, on her music, her dad and singing at Jimmy's

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PORTSMOUTH - Carla Cooke, daughter of legendary R&B crooner, Sam Cooke will present the songs of her father at Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club on Friday, July 1. Seacoastonline had the opportunity to sit down with Cooke to discuss her craft, inspirations beyond the obvious, getting back on the road and bringing her voice back to audiences around the globe, and her father’s legacy (as well as what it means to her to be able to sing his songs alongside her own).

Seacoastonline: When did you decide that your voice was the strongest instrument you had at your disposal?

Cooke: As a young child, I was always singing. I was in the church choir from the kids' choir all the way to the adult choir at my church. When I sang my first solo at the age of 13, I was asked to begin performing my own concerts for youth month. I did so every year with the help of two other friends I enlisted to join me.

Carla Cooke, daughter of the legendary Sam Cooke, will perform Friday, July 1 at Jimmy's Jazz and Blues Club in Portsmouth.
Carla Cooke, daughter of the legendary Sam Cooke, will perform Friday, July 1 at Jimmy's Jazz and Blues Club in Portsmouth.

Seacoastonline: Obviously, you’re the daughter of Sam Cooke, by-and-large, a household name. You were extremely young when he passed away. Do you have any memories of your father? How did he inspire and/or inform your musical journey?

Cooke: My father passed away when I was about four months old. The memories that I have are those that were shared with me by various family members and various friends. One thing they have in common is that my father was a down-to-earth, genuine man. Everybody that came in contact with him had nothing but good things to say about him.

His music had a huge influence on me. Just to hear his voice is inspiring. He’s so smooth and he just touched your soul on each song he’s recorded. I wanted to follow in his footsteps musically.

Carla Cook
Carla Cook

Seacoastonline: Was it difficult to find your own musical identity given how well known your father was/is?

Cooke: It was not difficult to find my own musical identity. My voice is God-given by way of my father. I am blessed to have my vocal talent. I’m a female singing my father’s music in my own way.

People expect much from me being that I am the daughter of Sam Cooke. I receive wonderful reviews after each performance. That makes me feel good inside knowing that people really love my show.

Seacoastonline: Who (besides your father) inspires you to do what you do?

Cooke: As a young girl and still today, Barbra Streisand is a huge inspiration in my life. Much like my father, her voice touches your soul. I sometimes perform "Evergreen" in my show. I love her performances in “Yental” and “A Star is Born.” Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin are also my musical inspirations.

Seacoastonline: It’s been quite a long while since you’ve released a full-length record. Any recording projects in the works?

Cooke: I am currently working on material I have written. As in my father’s words “It’s Been A Long Time Coming.” I do have two duets on Joe Louis Walker’s new release “Wake Me Shake Me” and “Someday Someway.” I also recorded a version of Nina Samone’s “Sinnerman.” You can find it on Apple Music.

Seacoastonline: You’re heading to visit us here in Portsmouth for a show at Jimmy’s Jazz & Blues Club. You’ll be doing a tribute show in honor of your father, Sam. What do you enjoy about singing his songs?

Cooke: I love performing my father’s music. It’s good quality music that is loved by millions of people around the world. His spirit covers me while I’m on stage performing. Bringing his music to audiences around the country brings me great joy!

Seacoastonline: What excites you about being back on the road and bringing your voice to rooms far and wide? Was the forced time off during the pandemic hard or a welcome break to recharge the batteries a bit?

Cooke: I am so blessed to be back on the road performing in venues again. I had a good rest, but it’s time to get back in the groove again. I really missed the live performances.

Seacoastonline: Your dad’s biggest song was “A Change is Gonna Come.” What can you say about the power of that number? It’s wild (and frustrating) to think that it holds just as much weight today as it did when it was first recorded nearly six decades ago.

Cooke: This song is the true genius of Sam Cooke. He wrote this song and arranged its melody referring to the cultural atmosphere during the 1960s. With everything that’s going on today in the world here and abroad, the words to this song is a testament to the belief in your heart that change is possible.

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This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Carla Cooke, daughter of legend Sam Cooke, to perform in Portsmouth NH