LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Start singing “Ain’t That Good News”: A Sam Cooke biopic has taken a significant step toward becoming a reality.
The screenwriters behind the all-Beatles musical “Across the Universe” have finished their adaptation of Peter Guralnick’s definitive biography of Sam Cooke for ABKCO, which owns Cooke’s publishing and the bulk of his master recordings. ABKCO CEO Jody Klein is now looking for a director.
Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais recently completed their adaptation of “Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke,” which Klein optioned in the fall of 2009. The book was published in 2005, two years after Guralnick had written the script for “Sam Cooke: Legend,” the only authorized documentary on Cooke. It won a Grammy for longform video.
“We had been looking for a long time for a writer to develop Peter’s book,” Klein told Billboard, “and it clicked when we met them. They understood the artist, they understood the times. It’s one of those things, like when you meet the love of your life and you know you have met your (future) wife. They have written a fantastic script.”
Klein says the script covers Cooke’s entire life -- 1931 to 1964 -- from childhood through his years as a gospel singer, a pop star, civil rights activist and eventually a label owner and music publisher. His music ushered the transition of R&B into soul music.
Cooke is widely regarded as the first significant R&B performer to appeal to black and white audiences as well as multiple generations through songs such as “You Send Me,” “Twistin’ the Night Away” and “Only Sixteen.” Shortly before he was shot dead in 1964, Cooke penned and recorded “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a song often listed as the most significant musical piece to emerge from the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and ‘60s.
Screenwriters Clement and La Frenais have worked together since the late 1960s when they collaborated on numerous British television shows. Their first major music film project was 1991’s “The Commitments”; their most recent film is the U2-rooted “Killing Bono,” which opens April 1 in the U.K. but does not yet have a U.S. distributor.
Klein, whose late father Allen was Cooke’s business manager, expects to self-finance the project through ABKCO.
“All of the elements have aligned themselves,” Klein says, noting the usual roadblocks in biopics -- music and life rights -- are already in hand . “We have secured rights from the Cooke family. One of the benefits of being a private company is that it enables us the appropriate amount of time to develop the script and make this happen. It will not get lost.”