Sam Cooke can still draw a crowd: Fans and family turn out for street named in singer's honor

June 19, 2011

Before a crowd of about 150 people, a section of east 36th Street in the Bronzeville neighborhood was honorarily renamed yesterday for the late soul singer Sam Cooke who grew up on the street--at corner of 36th and Ellis, actually---more than 70 years ago.

Having blogged about this Friday. I strapped on my camera and went to the ceremony to capture the mixture of Cooke's devotees, family--and voices from Chicago's 1960s soul era that Cooke influenced. Yes, this wanders far afield from architecture. Please indulge me...

The legendary radio DJ Herb Kent--"The Cool Gent"--was the emcee:

Cook County Commissioner Jerry Butler--whose beautiful baritone shared lead singing duties with Curtis Mayfield in the Impressions--was also on hand:

And this was cool: Herb Kent spied the crowd and picked out singer Ruby Andrews, whose 1967 record Casanova (Your Playing Days are Over) was a Number 9 hit on the R&B charts. Kent invited her up to sing a bit of the song:

And then Cliff Curry, an original member of the Chicago group, the Notations--their hit was 1971's slow-burner I'm Still Here--took the stage to talk about Cooke's legacy.

Sign of the time: Someone holds a camera and a hand-lettered placard honoring the day:

Sam Cooke's great-nephew Erik Greene, who spearheaded the effort to rename the street in Cooke's honor:

Cooke's brothers L.C. and David also attended. L.C. was a great singer in his own right, as the beautiful, Sam Cooke-produced Put Me Down Easy (Sam sings background on it) shows:

As the crowd began to break up after the event, I spotted a woman holding a Wendell Phillips HS yearbook. She flipped it open...