Wayne Cochran, the blue-eyed soul singer known as much for his flashy platinum white pompadour as he is for writing songs like “Last Kiss” and “Goin’ Back to Miami”, died on November 21st in Miramar, Florida. He was 78 years old.
Dubbed by many as “The White Knight of Soul”, Cochran was more of a cult figure than a chart-topper, with many of his songs with the C.C. Riders finding fame when covered by other artists. His tragic teenage love song “Last Kiss”, for example, went on to be famously covered by Pearl Jam, who found in their 1999 rendition one of the biggest chart hits of their career. Another well-regarded cover of the song came years earlier in 1964, when J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers offered up their take to much success. Cochran also got a nod from the Blues Brothers in their eponymous film, and the duo even covered Cochran’s “Goin’ Back to Miami” on their live album, Made In America.
News of his passing came from his son, Christopher, who informed the Miami Herald that the singer succumbed after a battle with cancer. At the time of his death, he was three decades deep into serving as an evangelical minister in the Miami area.
“He was all about family,” his son Christopher told the Herald. “Over the course of his 25-year career in the music industry he employed over 300 people with different members of the band and the people at his church. He always looked after people. He ran his building like a big family.”
Cochran’s legacy goes back a long way. Early in his career he played bass for soul legend Otis Redding, who Cochran always cited as a major influence. “I never heard race in the music,” he told the Herald in 2011. “It was just music that spoke to me. It moved me.” He also helped introduce influential jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius to the world when he recruited the young musician for his band, the C.C. Riders. Pastorius would go on to play with the Weather Report, as well as Joni Mitchell and Pat Metheny.
Below, hear Cochran’s “Last Kiss” and “Goin’ to Miami”, and see an interview with David Letterman he did in 1982.