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TV Review: "Sam Cooke: Crossing over" American Masters (PBS)

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Maybe its because Ive read Peter Guralnicks comprehensive 2005 Sam Cooke biography Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke that the newest entry in the generally wonderful PBS series American Masters, Sam Cooke Crossing Over, which debuts on PBS tonight, seems a little bit skimpy to me. An hour simply is not enough to tell the story of one of Americas greatest musical lives.

The basic facts of Sam Cookes life are by now pretty well known. His father was a preacher at the First Baptist Church in Chicago Heights, and by the age of 17 Cooke became the lead singer for one of gospels greatest groups, the Soul Stirrers. Seeking a larger audience, he left the world of gospel music to become one of the worlds biggest pop stars. The road was anything but smooth. He escaped a terrible car accident while on tour in 1958 with minor injuries, while bandmate Lou Rawls was badly hurt, and his chauffeur was killed. His ex-wife was killed in another accident while driving a car that Cooke had given her. His 18 month-old son Vincent died when he fell into the familys swimming pool.

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