Today Sam Moore celebrates his 80th birthday. The legendary singer of pop and R&B hits was one half of the great Atlantic/Stax Records duo Sam & Dave, then went on to a brilliant career as a solo act. He was named to Rolling Stone’s top 100 singers of all time, in addition to his place in the Rock and Hall of Fame. Sam has sung for all the presidents– four of them at once, in fact, a couple of years ago at the Kennedy Center. He’s a personal favorite of both Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.
Sam will be back at the Kennedy Center this Sunday night to perform for Eddie Murphy’s Mark Twain prize. The night before, Saturday, Sam will be inducted in the Memphis Music Hall of Fame with a celebrated group that runs the gamut from Justin Timberlake to the late Alberta Hunter.
Sam was born in Georgia and raised in Florida. His biggest music success came from Sam & Dave’s mid 60s stampede into Memphis courtesy of Atlantic Records’ Jerry Wexler. Singing songs written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, Sam & Dave had more than a dozen chart topping hits that are still played today constantly– from “Soul Man” to “Hold On I’m Coming” to “When Something Is Wrong with My Baby.”
He recorded a solo album for release in 1972 on Atlantic, produced by King Curtis with Aretha Franklin playing piano on many tracks. Wexler made the mistake of not releasing it, and Sam’s solo career didn’t take offas planned. The album, “Plenty Good Lovin’,” was finally made available in 2007 and garnered four star reviews from every major publication. Sam also recorded a new album, “Overnight Sensational,” in 2006 with Randy Jackson as producer. All of his “students” and fans clamored to be on the CD, from Bruce Springsteen to Sting to Jon Bon Jovi, Stevie Winwood, Paul Rodgers, and Paul Carrack. It’s a great record.
I met Sam in 1999 when I was planning to film a documentary on R&B legends with DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus. “Only the Strong Survive” was released in 2002-2003 with sensational and historic performances of his hits.
It’s no secret that everyone who knows Sam, loves him. He’s a stitch in person, with a great sense of humor and a love of gossip. He reveres his old pals, like Billy Preston and Aretha and Jackie Wilson, and admires his newer ones with great appreciation. Like any 80 year old he can be cantankerous, but Sam Moore is also one of the warmest people in the world. He’s been married to his famous manager wife Joyce since 1982, and they have a big loving family headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona and spread all over the country.
I do wish Sam and Dave were in the Grammy Hall of Fame with a Lifetime Achievement Award. But Sam has plenty of awards, and a voice that seems to be getting better and better as the years change. He’s a remarkable fellow. Here, following, are a few videos worth watching, and listening to. Happy Birthday, Sam!