Bring It On Home To Me

This is my favorite live song recording of all time. It’s Sam Cooke live At The Harlem Square Club in 1963 doing a medley of “You Send Me” into “Bring It On Home To Me.”

10 things I love about it:

  1. How the crowd is talking and all over the place at the beginning (:00) and how locked in they are at the end in total devotion to Sam. He brings them from wandering sheep into tight congregation.
  2. How the band builds the tension during the intro (:10) by subtly riding the hi-hat and guitar, like a burner set to simmer.
  3. How the band starts locking in behind him. On “fuss and fight” (:37), the accents start. And then the tempo of the accents start to speed up slightly (1:04). This ain’t no drum machine. This is people on stage looking at each other and signalling each other and responding to each other. Doing it differently every night. This is a band having a conversation.
  4. “I don’t want you operator. I want my baaaaaaaaby.” (1:10) And the crash comes in. And they hold it for a good 10 seconds until the chord change comes and it’s the musical equivalent of one of those soldier-comes-home-to-his-family videos.
  5. How Sam starts laughing after certain lines: “I feel like I can tell you about my baby right now — haha” (:28) and “I’ll always be your slave — haha” (4:04). Reminds me of how Dave Chappelle will laugh and hit himself with the mic after an especially good line.
  6. That voice. How he goes from scratchy growl (3:49) to soft and sensual. How he leans into “buried” and then “buried” again (4:09) when talking about his grave.
  7. How he uses this line as part of a turnaround into the next verse (3:35): “Listen, I gotta be a man and tell you this.” Feels like a life lesson: If you say that to someone, you can pretty much say anything you want afterwards as long as you really MEAN it.
  8. When he hits his body and refers to himself in the third person (3:45): “But listen, that ain’t all, (hits chest) that ain’t all Sam will do for you.” Matt Ruby thinks referring to yourself in the third person is always a pretty stellar thing to do.
  9. The subtle countermelody on the horns (4:28). Band’s putting up a fight.
  10. The end, the end, the end. That call and response. Sam yelling, “Everybody’s with me. Everybody’s with me tonight.” (4:43) The entire crowd yelling back in ecstasy, “YEAH!” So damn good. Everything has been brought back home. And the band hits the outro (5:30) and Sam keeps muttering about “bringing it on home” even as the final drum fill comes and the last chord is struck. Like he’s actually been possessed and can’t let it go. Goddamn.
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