Yes I Can!

Play it again for [B]Sam[/B] and you'll find him on his knees in the desert outside of Las Vegas, gun in his mouth...

Play it again for Sam and you’ll find him on his knees in the desert outside of Las Vegas, gun in his mouth. He is being persuaded to marry “one of his own kind”, an offer he can’t refuse from the movie moguls for whom his public fling with Kim Novak poses a serious threat to their investment…

painted across his garage doors by his upper-class neighbours. We find him campaigning for Kennedy’s bid for the presidency only to be ‘disinvited’ to the inaugural gala because the big vote in the South doesn’t take too kindly to “coons”. We find him on prime time TV, one fingernail painted red, a secret sign of Satanism. We find him on freedom marches in Washington by day and coked-out at LA orgies all night…

Such was the life of Sammy Davis Jr, a man whose biographical detail fits the romantic notion of the crooner as suffering survivor like that sharp white corduroy suit fits his wiry frame on the cover of this box set. But pop history’s just a fiction invented and reinvented to cater to our needs. And we don’t need Sammy right now. We need Frank and we need Dino, his close Rat Pack compadres, because they were men’s men, they were cool and the world couldn’t touch them. But Sammy wasn’t cool. Sammy was complicated, Sammy was hip.

Frank had ‘My Way’ and Dino had ‘That’s Amore’. But Sammy, he didn’t have a theme tune, although many tried to foist ‘What Kind Of Fool Am I?’ on him. Frank and Dino ‘recorded’, Sammy ‘performed’. Every time he sang it was kinetic, like his whole struggle to be accepted for himself and his entire race was being played out before our very eyes and ears. Frank was hard and Dino was smart but Sammy was electric. Frank and Dino were above and beyond effort. Sammy’s every performance was a victory over oppression, his metaphor sweat.

As ‘Yes I Can!’, this four-CD box set, attests, Sammy’s highs and lows were often one and the same. His biggest US hits – ‘The Candy Man’ from the [I]Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory[/I] soundtrack, and ‘Mr Bojangles’– he righteously loathed as fluff on the needle. But listen to ‘Begin The Beguine’ from 1962, performed solo except for the barest percussion, or ‘The Shelter Of Your Arms’ from ’63, [I]then [/I]let’s discuss who’s the boss.

You May Like