We’d be kicking ourselves here at Obit, if we didn’t take a moment to remember the great Wayne Cochran. Singer, songwriter, preacher, insanely intense live performer, and a possible hair model for Donald Trump, Cochran died on November 21st at his home in Miramar, Florida. He was 78. If James Brown was the hardest-working man in show business, Cochran was easily the second hardest. A gravely soul shouter in the style of Brown and Otis Redding, he was known as the “White Knight of Soul.” A Cochran show featured him shimmying on one leg from one side of the stage to the other, splits, kicks, and falls to his knees, his six-inch tall platinum pompadour always in place. His jeweled capes and jumpsuits were an inspiration for Elvis Presley’s stage costumes from the late 1960s onward.
But, more than his performing legacy, Cochran earns in place in Gloomy Tunes for his first hit, “Last Kiss.” Written by Cochran when he was 21, “Last Kiss” is probably the first great car crash song, a genre that reached its apogee with the Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack.” And a great song it is, but something of an outlier in Cochran’s career. Over a ghostly bassline, seraphic female voices, a choked guitar, and soft drumming, Cochran, in the most restrained vocal he ever recorded, remembers the crash and the last kiss he shared with his baby as she died. Now he has to remind himself to be good, so he can get into heaven when he leaves this world. But I’ve always thought the singer is dead as well; in the last verse, Cochran sings, “I lost my love, my life last night.” We all lost a great in Wayne Cochran.