The SOUL KING performance on June 20th in Courtenay at the Sid Williams Theatre presents a musical reflection on the life and times of Sam Cooke, often referred to as “The KING OF SOUL”. Following eight enthusiastically received performances at the Osborne Bay Hotel, the SOUL KING tribute concert played the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre and the Nanaimo Port Theatre to standing ovations. ‘Tributes’ to legendary figures in pop music have become nostalgic rituals for audiences seeking to revisit the ‘golden-oldie’ days when the likes of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and the Beatles reigned supreme. The task of the impersonator is to create an illusory reincarnation by looking like, sounding like and acting like original idols. The SOUL KING tribute concert offers another authentic trip down memory lane. Written and directed by Toronto singer and actor Michael Clarke, this biographical musical journey delves deeply, and personally, into Sam Cooke’s life at a time when popular music was at the core of social and political change. What’s great about this show is that Clarke, in the lead role, looks, sounds and acts like Sam Cooke. His silky crooning style and musical nuances are hauntingly reminiscent of the man who transformed gospel music into a global art form. Island theatre-goers will remember Clarke for his performances in Rock Legends and Kim’s Convenience at the Chemainus Theatre Festival. For the performance at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay, Michael brings a cast of talented local singers and musicians, featuring Nicole Utulinde, a remarkable jazz singer from the VIU Jazz program. Additional cast and band members include musical director Andrew Wilson (Duncan) on keyboard, Don Tarris (Crofton) on guitar, Alan Kerr (Salt Spring Island) on bass, and James McRae (Nanaimo) on drums. You don’t have to be a dedicated Sam Cooke fan to enjoy what this show has to offer. Even if the names of Bob Dylan, Little Richard, Cassius Clay and Malcolm X played no part in your adolescent fantasies, you’ll find yourself immersed in the social and political backdrop from a time when popular music moved beyond mushy ballads to find its voice as a powerful agent for social and political change. In the music of Sam Cooke, it also discovered its Soul.