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Soul Pioneer Wayne Cochran Dead at 78

Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

Wayne Cochran, once known as “The White Knight of Soul,” died Tuesday (Nov. 21) at the age of 78 after a battle with cancer. His passing was confirmed by his son Christopher in the Miami Herald.

Known for a towering pompadour-style haircut, Cochran’s elaborate stage dress is thought to have influenced Elvis Presley’s Las Vegas era outfits. Earlier in his career Cochran had played in Otis Redding’s band before being signed to King Records, where he established a close friendship with James Brown. “I never heard race in the music. It was just music that spoke to me. It moved me,” the Herald reported Cochran as having said in 2011.

Despite being a performer at heart, and establishing a strong reputation for live shows with his band the C.C. Riders, his greatest chart success came when J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers took his song “Last Kiss” to the top of the charts. He released four albums during his career before retiring in the early ‘80s, soon after he was honored by the Blues Brothers with their cover of his track “Goin’ Back to Miami.”

Seeking an escape for years of rock and roll excess, Cochran became a pastor and founded the Voice for Jesus Church – an establishment that relied heavily on musical performance. “We’re not typical of a church,” he once said. “We’re loud. It burns. I believe in the power of music. If you don’t want to get ecstatic, don’t come to this church. There ain’t no tombstones sitting in there and if they are, we’re gonna resurrect them. We have a good time. We boogie.”

Cochran also discovered bass phenomenon Jaco Pastorius, who joined the C.C. Riders for a time. “He made sounds on his instrument I had never heard before,” the band leader later recalled.

Cochran leaves behind two children, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

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