September 17, 2009 / 3:05 AM / 10 years ago

Sam Cooke's label developing a movie on soul star

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - “Good Times,” indeed.

On the heels of successful movies about Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, plans are underway to bring the life of soul star Sam Cooke to the big screen, the head of his record label said on Wednesday.

The project is still in the early stages of development, with writers working on an adaptation of Peter Guralnick’s 2005 biography “Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke,” said Jody Klein, the president of ABKCO Music & Records Inc.

“In the next couple of months, I should be able to make an announcement on the film,” he told Reuters.

ABKCO owns all the necessary master recordings and rights to make the movie, but he said casting could pose a challenge. The usual A-list stars like Denzel Washington and Will Smith are too old to play the handsome crooner, who was 33 when he was shot to death in a Los Angeles motel in 1964.

Cooke crossed over from gospel stardom to achieve mainstream pop success with such tunes as “Chain Gang,” “Cupid,” “Good Times” and the posthumous protest anthem “A Change is Gonna Come.” Notably for the times, he owned the rights to his music through various recording and publishing entities he controlled.

Last year, Rolling Stone magazine named him the fourth-greatest singer of all time.

“He had an incomparable voice,” Irish rocker Van Morrison wrote for the article. “Sam Cooke could sing anything and make it work. But when you’re talking about his strength as a singer, range is not relevant. It was his power to deliver — it was about his phrasing, the totality of his singing.”

Cooke was fatally shot by a motel manageress who said she feared for her life after he stormed into her office after a dispute with a woman the family man had brought back to his room.

Jody Klein’s father, Allen Klein, who died in July, managed Cooke. New York-based ABKCO, which also controls the rights to compositions by the Rolling Stones, the Who and the Kinks, is controlled by the Klein family.

The Ray Charles film, “Ray,” garnered an Oscar for star Jamie Foxx in 2005. The following year, Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar for playing Cash’s wife, June Carter Cash, in “Walk the Line.” Both films performed well at the box office.

Reporting by Dean Goodman; editing by Todd Eastham

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