Friends gathered in the historic Clayton Opera House, to pay tribute to a well-known regional musician, while outside, a rainbow glowed above the building; however not in the typical bow, but rather upside down, as if smiling from above. As the rainbow appeared, back inside, a performance of “I Shall Be Released” echoed through the hall.
Sam Hopkins, 70, was at the show in his honor. His spirit shined bright through the music and vocals of those who came together to remember him. Sam passed away on February 28th, after a brief battle with lung cancer, and was released of his pain. It’s believed he was welcomed into the Lord’s Kingdom, to sing with the Angels.
Sam was a man of few words, but the words he did speak usually left his lips in song. His passion for music dripped from his pores, figuratively and literally. As the hot summer sun would beat down in Kingston or Clayton, Sam would stand on a restaurant patio, dressed more sharp than the President, and beads of sweat would billow from his head. His love for singing in public began at the age of five, as a member of the Baptist church he attended in Harlem and over the years he found numerous avenues to be on the microphone.
The soul of the region’s “Jazzman” continued to live on, as the community came together to show their support of his wife, Audrey, and for the love of music. On Sunday afternoon, nearly 20 musicians and vocalists poured their heart and soul into a show meant for Sam. More than 200 people gathered to listen the mix of jazz, blues and more. His long-time pianist Jim Burr carried the baton throughout the show and at one point joked how each show would have 100 versions of a set list and it would be Sam who would make 100 more changes,before it was said and done. Sunday’s show was no different as the original lineup changed numerous times and the term “on the fly” was widely used. Jim honored his late friend with a solo of “Wonderful World” on the keyboard.
Sam regularly organized concerts to benefit local and national causes, including the annual Tunes for Turkey, to benefit the Clayton Food Pantry and a 2005 event at the Clayton American Legion, to support the Red Cross in its Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Talks are underway to ensure his Tunes for Turkey event lives on.
Based on Sunday’s showing, Sam will surely be missed by the so many he found a way to touch.
Surviving, besides his wife, are daughter Tanya Hopkins and sons Chris Hopkins of Montreal and Michael and Anthony Hopkins of New York City, one stepson and his wife, Christopher and Shelly Reilly of Elginburg, Ont.; four grandchildren; two sisters, Hattie Smith of Mays Landing, N.J., and Ellenor Hopkins of Harlem; and nieces and nephews. A brother, Frank Hopkins, died before him. Cremation has taken place.
A celebration of life will be held at the Antique Boat Museum, in Clayton and at the Kingston Brew Pub, Kingston, Ontario, at a date and time to be announced. Interment service will take place at Tamworth Cemetery in the spring.
Donations may be made to Hospice of Jefferson County, 1398 Gotham Street, Watertown, NY 13601, or the Antique Boat Museum, 750 Mary Street, Clayton, NY 13624.
By Michael Folsom
Michael Folsom is a regular contributor to TI Life. He covers the “Seaway News” on his popular web site, www.theshipwatcher.com, as well as aTwitter site: twitter.com/theshipwatcher.
His work has been featured in the Thousand Islands Sun, as well as on boatnerd.com and northcountrynow.com. You can follow him on Twitter @theshipwatcher. To see all of Michael Folsom’s 31 articles written for TI Life. Click Here.
Note: Horizon Aerial Media Services provides an celebrating the life with the Sam Hopkin’s evening, in their album, Songs for Sam.