Daughters of legends Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Diana Ross sing at The Kate
Is there any profession that presents more conflicting aspects than when you're the daughter or son of a famous entertainer — and you decide to follow in those golden footsteps?
On one hand, the doors to contacts and opportunities open fairly easily.
On another hand, the youngster by definition has to measure up — whether mom's Judy Garland or dad's John Lennon.
Too, beyond the DNA situation, would-be fans are notoriously suspicious when a famous kiddo gets chances and is exposed to connections that maybe other would-be artists can only dream of.
Let's just agree that the whole situation can be a mixed blessing.
Singer Carla Cooke knows all about such things.
The daughter of genius soul singer Sam Cooke, Carla has a remarkable voice and writes perfectly competitive contemporary R&B songs. And she's working diligently to establish her own career and identity. But part of that includes pride in her father's legacy.
As such, Cooke is currently on the road with the Daughters of Legends tour, which also features Rhonda Ross (mom's Diana Ross and dad's Berry Gordy) and Robyn LaJoya Charles (her father was Ray Charles). The show stops Friday for a performance at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook.
"I enjoy being part of this tour," Cooke says by telephone from the road. "You know, I was only four months old when my father passed away, so I had no chance at a personal relationship with him. I feel that listening to his music and singing it gives me that emotional connection. I remember being a little girl and hearing my father's records — and his voice would just make me smile."
The Daughter of Legends show will feature each vocalist recreating hits associated with their parents. After all, the collective accomplishments of Sam Cooke, Diana Ross and Ray Charles are artistically immortal and, in terms of record sales, chart success and awards, almost beyond quantification. The structure of the evening calls for Charles and Cooke to do medleys of their father's hits, then separate sets of original songs, before Ross comes out.
When the idea for the tour was broached with Cooke, she says she was open but cautious. "You'd think it would be an automatic decision, but it's not," she says. "I did think it was a good idea, and though I didn't know Rhonda, I knew Robin a bit. It seemed like a fun concept, but I wasn't sure how well it would go over."
That the tour coincides with Black History Month is no coincidence, Cooke says, and brought added weight to the concept.
"This is an opportunity I'm glad for. I'm proud to sing my father's songs and proud to celebrate Black History Month — and we're all going to present our own stuff, too," Cooke says. "It's a great situation for fans, but it's also where audiences can hear what I can do. I'm working on an album of original material, and this is a good way to establish a relationship with fans."
Cooke has already released one album, "A Time to Remember," a fine showcase for her amalgam of jazz, gospel, soul and pop, and it features self-penned songs as well as thoughtful covers of classic material by her father including "Lost and Looking" and, of course, "A Change is Gonna Come."
Speaking of the latter song, Cooke says, "I just closed my eyes when we recorded that. We did it in two quick takes because it was emotional and I wanted to do it right and get it done. I listen to him sing and it's so special, and I wanted to get it close as well as provide a personal touch. So I just thought about him and sang and, now, live, I just hope it's something the audience wants to hear."
Daughters of Legends, 8 p.m. Friday, Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, 300 Main St., Old Saybrook; $56, $60; 1-877-503-1286.
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