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Sam Gooden, Co-Founder Of Chicago Soul Masters The Impressions, Dies At 87

Gooden began the hugely influential R&B group with future solo stars Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler, as well as brothers Arthur and Richard Brooks.

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The Impressions (l-r Curtis Mayfield, Fred Cash, and Sam Gooden) play New York's Apollo Theater, circa 1965. Photo: Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
The Impressions (l-r Curtis Mayfield, Fred Cash, and Sam Gooden) play New York's Apollo Theater, circa 1965. Photo: Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Sam Gooden, a co-founder of seminal Chicago soul group the Impressions, has died at the age of 87. His daughter Gina Griffin confirmed the news on Thursday (4) in Gooden’s home town of Chattanooga, Tennessee. It’s understood that he had been in declining health for some years.

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Gooden was an originator of the hugely influential R&B group in the late 1950s with future solo stars Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler, as well as brothers Arthur and Richard Brooks. After the Impressions’ initial success in 1958 with “For Your Precious Love” and the lesser entry “Come Back My Love,” both credited to the group and Butler, he left for enduring success of his own, replaced in the line-up by Fred Cash.

As Mayfield emerged as the Impressions’ prime songwriter and creative muse, they had a succession of classic soul hits, all of which crossed into the pop market to a greater or lesser extent. They included the R&B No.1s “It’s All Right” (1963), “Keep On Pushing” and “Amen” (both 1964), “We’re A Winner,” (1968) and, exemplifying Mayfield’s increasingly important voice of social commentary, “Choice Of Colors” (1969). Other treasured singles during their time on ABC-Paramount included “Gypsy Woman,” “I’m So Proud,” and the Grammy Hall of Fame entry “People Get Ready.”

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After Mayfield left in 1970 (replaced initially by Leroy Hutson), Gooden and Cash carried the group forward, continuing their tenure on Mayfield’s Curtom label. They landed another R&B No.1 in 1974 with the Ed Townsend composition “Finally Got Myself Together (I’m a Changed Man),” and there were further Top 3 soul hits with “Sooner or Later” and “Same Thing It Took.” The group’s sole UK chart entry was with the 1976 Top 20 single “First Impressions.”

Gooden and Cash reunited for a tour in 1983, and the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. Mayfield died in 1999; Butler is now retired from a concurrent and prominent career in politics. Gooden’s death leaves Cash, now 81, as the last survivor from the later part of the Impressions’ classic period.

Listen to the best of the Impressions on Apple Music and Spotify.

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