One Night in Miami was a masterclass of acting from all parties, but the one that stood out the most to me was Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke. For me, the performance was so much more than just a groundbreaking feat of acting, it was personal for me.
As a kid growing up, Sam Cooke was one of my dad’s favorite singers. Of course, my dad had a rule (that I use myself now) that he was in charge of the radio while we were driving. While sometimes this could be bad, there were other instances of Sam Cooke, which I was more than pleased with because of this soothing tone to his voice that made you feel a certain way.
When Leslie Odom Jr. first hits the stage as Sam Cooke he sings ‘Tammy’ to a predominately white crowd that wasn’t receptive to the performance. He (Cooke) knew that he had somewhat bombed the version, but never-the-less, this was the moment that Odom first blew me away in this role.
But the biggest moment was when Malcolm (Ben-Adir) tells this story about Jackie Wilson performing before Sam Cooke, and how he was on the stage and killing it, and how as he came off the stage, it was Cooke’s turn. The crowd was already vibrant and was going wild as Cooke begins to “caress’ the mic. Nothing could have defeated this moment, nothing other than the sound not working. But Cooke didn’t let this stop him from showcasing his ability to adapt to the change. He gets the crowd to start stomping their feet, and he starts to belt ‘Chain Gang’, and at this moment, that brought me to tears.
Here is the audio clip of that moment.
The soothing tone and poignant effectiveness by Odom Jr. brought me back to my childhood. Those long road trips with my family, and my dad introducing me to the Sam Cooke’s of the music world. This moment also showcased why Regina King made the right choice casting this man as Sam Cooke. At this moment, you could close your eyes, and you couldn’t tell the difference between Odom Jr. and Cooke as the sounds begin to melt into one overarching moment for me.
Above all, as more people get to watch this film and connect with it on different levels, I can’t thank Regina King and Leslie Odom Jr. enough for giving me an escape to remember and cherish these memories again.