- The legendary "Soul Man" Sam Moore
is being honored on February 22 in New York City
with the AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) AMEE (AFTRA Media and Entertainment Excellence) Lifetime
Achievement Award. AFTRA is a national labor union representing performers, journalists and other artists working in the entertainment and news media. Moore spoke with me from his home in Arizona.
Considered by many as the greatest of all soul duos, Sam Moore - the Sam in Sam and Dave
- recorded such hits as "You Don't Know Like I Know," "Hold On, I'm Comin'" (#1 R&B-1967 and #2 Pop), "You Got Me Hummin'," "I Thank You," and of course, the song that has prompted generation after generation to hit the dance floor - "Soul Man" (#1 R&B-1967 and #2 Pop) with Dave Prater
(who died at 50 in 1988 in an auto accident).
The legendary "Soul Man" Sam Moore will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from AFTRA.
Born in 1935 and raised in the South, Moore met Prater in Florida in 1961. They brought the sound of church to R&B and Pop music during the early 1960s, singing in a gospel 'call and response' (rapid fire) musical style pioneered by Moore, they recorded for Stax Records from 1965 to 1968 and flew up the charts, recording songs written by both Issac Hayes
and David Porter
, and backed up by musicians Booker T. and the M.G.'s
During his career Moore turned down an offer to replace Sam Cooke
in the Soul Stirrers. Atlantic Records
' Jerry Wexler
caught their act in Florida in 1964 and sent them to the Memphis-based Stax Records to record. The duo split in the early 1970s, but reunited several times over the years, and in particular in 1979 for the "Blues Brothers" movie (Dan Aykroyd
and John Belushi
) for a revival of "Soul Man." Sam and Dave never performed together again after the early 1980s, and were inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. Moore has also been inducted into the Grammy Song Hall of Fame for "Soul Man" and has has been honored with the NARAS Heroes Award and the first ever British MOBO'S Lifetime Achievement Award.
Greatly respected not just by fans but musicians as well, Moore worked on several tracks on Bruce Springsteen's
"Human Touch" album. He has maintained a successful solo career touring and performing, and earned a platinum record, as well as two Country Music Association Award nominations, for his duet "Rainy Night in Georgia" with Conway Twitty
. Among his many collaborations, including Springsteen, Don Henley
, Elvis Costello
, Elton John
, Billy Joel
, Annie Lennox
, and others, Moore released an album "Overnight Sensational" in 2006 with the late Billy Preston
, along with Eric Clapton
, Robert Randolph
and Italian rocker Zucchero
, which garnered a Grammy nomination in the best R&B duo or group category.
The album cover from the original version of "Overnight Sensational." An updated version with bonus tracks is being readied for release.
Most recently seen performing with Bruce Springsteen at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
25th Anniversary celebration aired on HBO
, Moore appears unstoppable in both his energy and consummate professionalism, as well as the charm and skills he has maintained in his 55+ year career. A lively Moore confirmed, "I'm living in Arizona by design, still married after 28 years, I have about nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, and to be recognized for a gift which I believe was given to me from above is just wonderful."
How does this recognition from AFTRA differ from your induction into the Rock and Roll of Fame more than 15 years ago?
: When I was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame I didn't think it could get any better, but what's different for me beyond the fact that I am completely honored by this award is that I loved it when I was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because it was a recognition by my peers and fellow performers, but AFTRA is a recognition by the industry itself - and it's great because it tells me that someone up there must like me, and I look upon it that I have done something right all these years and in this industry. I didn't play football or basketball, and I'm not pretty, and after Dave I never considered performing in any more duets, so for a long time I've been a solo artist singing songs.
Having seen your performance with Bruce Springsteen during the HBO special - how do you do it - your vocals are as clear and strong as ever - is there any regiment you follow to keep your voice so powerful?
: Nah - I believe it's God's instrument and I just try not to overuse it [my voice] other than just talking. I began singing in church and it would get loud, so I've always tried to use my voice fully but not by yelling or screaming. And I gotta say, working with that guy Bruce - well, we don't see each other that much, you know we don't socialize but when we get together on stage it is just wonderful. He is great to work and perform with, and when I'm up there on stage with him it always hits me how much I love performing with this guy!
Given the number of artists you have worked with over the years, is there anyone you would have enjoyed working with or might like to work with in the future?
Sam and best bud, the late Billy Preston at BB King's club in NYC in February 2001 when they performed together there.
I know this is going to sound funny coming from me, but the one person I would have really loved to have sung with is Luciano Pavarotti
. He was born the same day, same month, and same year as me [October 12, 1935] so I thought that was a good connection for us. One of the more contemporary artists I'd love to work with is Jordin Sparks
- that kid can sing, also Josh Stone
, Gladys Knight
I've always loved performing with Paul Rodgers
- he and Bruce are great musicians too, and with Bruce the way he wrote it is the way you sing it. Sting and BeBe Winans
could do a clinic on this - you sing what is written, and Bruce is never going to change a word! He always says the same thing to me 'Keep it Loose' and he's right. I've been lucky to work with such professionals over the years.
You know when you are sharing a stage and came up with Jackie Wilson
, Aretha Franklin
, and Sam Cooke
you gotta bring your professionalism and abilities out front and be on it. Dave and I never harmonized - we blended - you have to learn your style and perfect it. These folks always compliment each other. I learned from some of the best by watching and listening to Sammy Davis, Jr.
, Frank Sinatra
, Barbra Streisand
. You never want to be in the studio or on stage and be embarrassed - focus and do it. The people I've worked with over the years, Quincy Jones
[and] Randy Jackson
, they won't put up with anything less than your best, and they'll call you out. I'm careful about who I sing with - you always need to listen and learn, and when you go in the studio with these guys you make it right because you sure don't want anyone to say to you 'What was that?' or 'Do it again.'
I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you how the renewed popularity of "Soul Man" by the Blues Brothers and the subsequent movie made you feel?
I loved it, the parody was fun and entertaining. I'd watch 'Saturday Night Live' and saw them do a Ray Charles
tune, or Aretha and then they did Dave and me with 'Soul Man' - it was fantastic. When the movie came around I was thrilled to be a part of it. But I'll tell you something - one time Dave and I had a gig in New York at a club whose name I can't remember - 'My Mother's Place' or 'My Father's Place' - something like that. We performed 'Soul Man' and after the show was over this bunch of young people came up to us and started saying 'Wow, you guys do that song much better than the Blues Brothers' - I thought it was funny that they had no idea it was our song, but Dave just went nuts, he was furious!
Any comment on how the industry has changed during your career?
Well, it is very different and I have to say there is talent out there, but some of these acts just can't sing. With the girls it seems to be more about a performance and wearing tight outfits, and with the boys it just seems like the louder the better. Back in the day, labels, promoters they actually listened to you and were able to recognize talent for the talent. Now it's like showmanship instead of musicianship. We had to prove that we deserved to be up on that stage. I've gone and seen some very well known singers nowadays and they just seem to wail and I'm wondering why everyone is saying 'Oh, they are great' and I'm thinking 'no - they are out of tune'.
"All I can say is - take care of your craft."
• Moore will perform Sunday, February 21, at The Highline Ballroom (431 West 16th Street, NYC, 212-414-5994) for one show only with Ryan Shaw
as the Opening Act - so run - don't walk to grab tickets for this special evening, or go to www.highlineballroom.com
Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.