Rock and Roll legend Dion knew Sam Cooke in the 1950s. After Sam died he wrote a song about him and didn’t revisit it until recently, more than 50 years later. To complete the song he called on his friend Paul Simon. The result is ‘Song for Sam Cooke (Here In America’ on Dion’s new ‘Blues With Friends’ album.
In his interview with Noise11.com Dion tells the story of ‘Song For Sam Cooke (Here In America). “I’ve know Paul a long time, he tells Noise11.com. “What happened, I travelled with Sam Cooke for about six weeks. He had a tragic ending but he was very refined, very intelligent guy. He was a preacher’s kid. When I travelled with him I saw him in a lot of ugly situations. There was racism in New York but it wasn’t the same because I was recording with all of the Apollo musicians at Columbia.
“When I was travelling with Sam, the racism in the South at the time in early 60s was brutal. I was rough around the edges. I would say ‘Sam, why don’t you throw that guy a right hook and knock him out if they say something like that to you’. They would call him names and he said ‘Dion, that’s a peculiar way to become a man’. He said, ‘if race matters to you then you are a racist. To us it doesn’t matter. Its like eye colour or shoe colour’.
“He taught me how to reach for a higher ground. I got to know him and I got to observe him over the six weeks. I never saw him get ruffled. He never reacted badly and he would talk to me. He wasn’t afraid to talk about God or his faith. He understood me. There was a lot of brotherhood, understanding.
“One day it dawned on me just watching him why he was the way he is. He was the brightest guy in the room. It was appealing to me. I wanted to up my game and learn at the time.
“When he died some years later I wrote a song, I put it in a drawer and I never looked at it.
“Last year I saw the movie ‘Green Book’ and I called Paul Simon. I said ‘Paul, I’ve got a song. Its been in the back of the drawer for years. I never recorded it. It’s very personal’.
“We had lunch. I played him the song and I told Paul about it. I said it was not so much about racism, it was about brotherhood and love. That’s the way Sam wanted to change the world but through his art and his music. Paul got it right away. We go back to the 60s. He came into the studio and turned it into something sublime”.
Watch the complete Noise11.com interview with Dion