Sam Gooden, co-founder of soul group the Impressions, died at the age of 87, his daughter confirmed.
He passed away in his native Chattanooga after a career that spanned seven decades. While no cause of death was given, it’s understood he’d been in poor health for some time. He’d retired in 2018, bringing the band to an end at the same time.
The Impressions had their roots in the Roosters, a doo-wop group formed in Chicago in the ‘50s. After a lineup change that included the arrival of Curtis Mayfield, they became Jerry Butler and the Impressions, under which banner they scored their first hit, 1958’s “For Your Previous Love.”
Mayfield took over and shortened the name, and their most successful period began. They released a series of his singles including 1965 signature track “People Get Ready,” which became the unofficial anthem of the American Civil Rights movement.
While their final chart hit came in 1976, after Mayfield went solo, the group continued with a series of lineup changes, although Gooden remained a member until the end. They were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1988, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003.
“We sounded terrible,” Gooden said of the Roosters in 2013 interview. “Well, you live and you learn. And if you set your mind to learning the trade, then you’ll learn different things and different techniques on how to do things. And then you learn how the voice structure is… the Good Lord gives you the talent to learn. And you go from there.”
Discussing “People Get Ready,” he admitted he hadn’t understood Mayfield’s intention at first. “Sometimes he wrote songs that are hard to understand until maybe years later,” he said. “I didn’t know it was a spiritual until later on. … ‘People get ready, there’s a train a-coming,’… it’s going to be the last train. There will be no other train coming.”
He added: “It was a wake-up call not only black people, but it gave other people food for thought. You know all of a sudden now, not just black people, but white people, whatever colors, and Latinos and whatever, people get ready, there’s a train a-coming. That means it’s coming for everybody, not just for one but for everybody else. But mainly it’s for to enhance black people to kind of stand up and be counted. You know, you’re not the tail. You can be the head too.”
Listen to the Impressions’ ‘People Get Ready’
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