As the Christmas season arrived in 1964, the soulful pop crooner Sam Cooke was at the crest of his career.
Cooke, 33, had enjoyed a remarkable run of hit songs, beginning in 1957 with "You Send Me" and continuing with "Wonderful World," "Chain Gang," "Cupid," "Bring It on Home" and "Another Saturday Night," among many others.
He had sold 10 million records as a true crossover artist. His songs, with broad appeal to all races, rated high on both the pop and R&B charts. He had begun to dabble in acting, and talent agents saw limitless potential—film roles, a la Sammy Davis Jr., or a variety show, like Nat King Cole.
Born to humble roots in the Mississippi Delta, he had accumulated a personal fortune. He drove a $15,000 Ferrari convertible and lived with his lovely wife, Barbara, in a Hollywood mansion. A clever businessman, he seemed destined for even greater fame and unspeakable wealth.
But Cooke had a flaw of Biblical proportion: his unbridled libido.
He was a skirt-chaser and serial philanderer, a problem that shadowed his entire life since adolescence. At age 22, as he was blossoming as a star gospel singer, Cooke juggled three pregnant girlfriends—two in Chicago, one in Cleveland.
Cupid's well-worn arrow pricked Cooke yet again on December 10, 1964.…
N.C. native Curtis McNair spent various parts of his 76 years as an inventor, artist, teacher and civil rights activist, but he is best known as the designer for some of Motown's best-known album covers, including Marvin Gaye's “What's Going On.” He's now retired and living outside of Wadesboro, with his wife, Donna, a prison chaplain.
McNair, would rather be known for marching for civil rights in the ’40s, helping to integrate the Army in the ’50s, and that he was among the first blacks hired at Chrysler’s corporate office in the early ’60s — a man of firsts. Instead, McNair is most known for his time at Motown where he created some of the most memorable album covers of the time.
On Friday, the McNairs make their first visit to the Belk Theater uptown, where several dozen of his covers will be displayed as part of a two-night Charlotte Symphony tribute to Motown, featuring the band Spectrum. Following are excerpts of an interview with McNair by reporter Mark Price
Q. How many covers are you bringing to the show?
About 70. That's not all the covers I designed. I don't have copies of about 30 percent. The ones I don't have are the ones I'm not proud of. We didn't have a big budget for covers, so I did what I could with what they gave me, including paintings, old photos, even busts.
Q. What's your best stuff?
Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Undisputed Truth, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and some lesser-known acts like Brass Monkey. Some of my favorites are ones by those little-known bands that Motown picked up in an attempt to break into the white market. They wanted to compete with the Beatles. Rare Earth was one. Another was called Magic and then there was Lost Nation, who I thought was a lot of fun. I did an album cover for them at…