Sam Cooke

Gary: “I will deal with an absolutely fantastic singer, who left us under very mysterious circumstances when his career was still in high gear.

The Great

Samuel Cook

(born January 22, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi; died December 11, 1964 in Los Angeles, California)


In the past week I watched the PBS presentation of “American Masters / Crossing Over” which is about the life and times of Sam Cooke.
Try and find it; you will be glad you did.

It changed the way I remember and looked at Sam, because in 1957, I was 17 and “You Send Me” was the song that you chose to dance “real close” to your girl.

Cooke was much more than just a singer, as the biography points out; he had his weaknesses, but we all do.  He came out of the Gospel era, crossed over and opened the doors for many black singers of the day. 

Sam’s death, was a sham; we will never know what really happened. He was not a violent man; never carried a gun, but did have a weakness for the ladies.  I hope that you get the opportunity to view the documentary.


Here is a good Bio in 4 parts…
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4 the last
On the Ed Sullivan Show 1957 / You Send Me /
Shindig 1964 “Blowin’ the Wind” /
The Jerry Lewis Show 1963 / Twistin’ the Night Away
I read somewhere that Sam, as great as he was, had maybe two left feet; he was not a dancer.  This video would confirm that. Here he is with the great Jackie Wilson

Sam Cooke songs

I will give you a lot of songs, but again I know I will miss some of your favourite’s, so I will apologize ahead of time.

1.   You Send Me/ Keen 3-4013/ 10/238/57/ #1 (3) Billboard

2.   I’ll Come Running Back to You/ Specialty 619/ 12/23/57/ #18 Billboard

3.   (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons/ Keen 3-4002/ 1/6/58/ #17 Billboard

4.   Everybody likes to Cha Cha Cha/ Keen 3-2018/ 3/30/59/ #31 Billboard

5.   Only Sixteen/ Keen 3-2022/ 7/6/59/ #28 Billboard

6.   Wonderful World/ Keen 8-2112/ 5/23/60/ #12 Billboard

7.   Chain Gang/ RCA Victor 7783/ 8/29/60/ #2 Billboard

8.   That’s It – I Quit – I’m Movin’ On/ RCA Victor 7853/ 3/20/61/ #31 Billboard

9.   Cupid/ RCA Victor 7883/ 6/26/61/ #17 Billboard

10. Twistin’ the Night Away/ RCA Victor 7983/ 2/17/62/ #9 Billboard

11. Bring it On Home to Me (favourite)/ RCA Victor 8036/ 6/16/62/ #13 Billboard

11. Having a Party/ B side/ #17 Billboard

12. Send me some Lovin’/ RCA Victor 8129/ 2/2/63/ #13 Billboard

13. Another Saturday Night/ RCA Victor 8164/ 5/4/63/ #10 Billboard

14. Frankie and Johnny/ RCA Victor 8215/ 8/17/63/ #14 Billboard

15. Little Red Rooster/ RCA Victor 8247/ 11/9/63/ #11 Billboard

16. Good Times/ RCA Victor 8299/ 6/27/64/ #11 Billboard

16. Good News/ B side/ #11 Billboard

17. Shake/ RCA Victor 8486/1/16/65/ #7 Billboard

18. Sugar Dumpling/ RCA Victor 8631/ 8/28/65/ #32

Billboard – Not Charted


1.   Let the Good Times Roll

2.   Since I met you Baby

3.   A change is going to Come

Samuel Cook was a popular and influential American gospel, R&B, soul and pop singer-songwriter and entrepreneur recognized as one of the true founders of soul music.

Often referred to as The King of Soul, Cooke had 29 Top 40 hits in the U.S. between 1957 and 1964 including major hits: You Send Me, A Change Is Gonna Come, Chain Gang and Wonderful World.

Cooke was also among the first modern black performers and composers to attend to the business side of his musical career, he founded both a record label and a publishing company as an extension of his careers as a singer and composer. He also took an active part in the American Civil Rights Movement.

On December 11, 1964, Cooke was allegedly shot to death by the manager of the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles, California at the age of 33. At the time, the courts ruled that Cooke was drunk and distressed, and the manager killed Cooke in what was later ruled a justifiable homicide. Since that time, the circumstances of his death have been widely questioned.

Sam Cooke (he added an “e” onto the end of his name because he thought it added a touch of class) was one of eight children of Rev. Charles and Mrs. Annie Mae Cook. The family moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1933.

Cooke began his musical career as a member of a quartet with his siblings, the Singing Children, followed by a turn as a teenager as a member of the Highway QCs, a gospel group. In 1950, at the age of 19, he joined The Soul Stirrers and achieved significant success and fame within the gospel community.

His first pop single, “Lovable” (1956) was released under the alias of “Dale Cooke,” in order to not alienate his fan base; there was a considerable taboo against gospel singers performing secular music. However, the alias failed to hide Cooke’s unique and distinctive vocals. No one was fooled.

Art Rupe, head of Specialty Records, the label of the Soul Stirrers, gave his blessing for Cooke to record secular music under his real name, but was unhappy about the type of music Cooke and Bumps Blackwell, Cooke’s pop producer, were making. Rupe expected Cooke’s secular music to be similar to that of another Specialty Records artist, Little Richard.

When Rupe walked in on a recording session and heard Cooke covering Gershwin, he was quite upset. After an argument between Rupe and Blackwell, Cooke and Blackwell left the label, and Cooke signed with Keen Records in 1957. His first release was “You Send Me”, which spent six weeks at #1 on the Billboard R&B chart but which also had massive mainstream success, spending three weeks at #1 on the Billboard pop chart.

As if an R&B performer writing his own songs and achieving mainstream fame was not innovative enough, Cooke continued to astonish the music business in the 1960s with the founding of his own label, SAR Records, which soon included The Simms Twins, The Valentinos, Bobby Womack, and Johnnie Taylor.

Cooke then created a publishing imprint and management firm, then left Keen to sign with RCA. One of his first RCA singles was the hit “Chain Gang.”

It reached #2 on the Billboard pop chart. This was followed by more hits, including “Sad Mood”, “Bring it on Home to Me” (with Lou Rawls on backing vocals), “Another Saturday Night” and “Twistin’ the Night Away”.

Like most R&B artists of his time, Cooke focused on singles; in all he had 29 Top 40 Hits on the pop charts, and more on the R&B charts. In spite of this, he released a critically acclaimed blues-inflected LP in 1963, Night Beat. He was known for having written many of the most popular songs of all time in the genre, and is often uncredited for many of them by the general public.

Cooke died at the age of 33 under mysterious circumstances on December 11, 1964 in Los Angeles, California. Though the details of the case are still in dispute (see below), it seems he was shot to death by Bertha Franklin, manager of the Hacienda Motel in South Los Angeles, who claimed that he had threatened her, and that she killed him in self-defense. The verdict was justifiable homicide, though many believe that crucial details did not come out in court, or were buried afterward. Cooke was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California.

Some posthumous releases followed, many of which became hits, including “A Change Is Gonna Come”, an early protest song which is generally regarded as his greatest composition.

After Cooke’s death, his widow, Barbara, married Bobby Womack. Cooke’s daughter, Linda, later married Bobby’s brother, Cecil.

The song “A Change Is Gonna Come” was played upon the death of Malcolm X, and was memorably featured in Spike Lee’s film Malcolm X. Barack Obama’s presidential victory speech paraphrased the song: “It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.”

Rapper Tupac Shakur references Cooke in a line of the song “Thugz Mansion”, and Nas references him in the song “We Major” with Kanye West. The Roots song “Stay Cool” suggests, “I got the soul of a young Sam Cooke”. Mike Doughty’s song “Sweet Lord in Heaven” evokes the memory of Cooke, as does the Wallflowers 2000 song “Sleepwalker”: “Cupid don’t draw back your bow, Sam Cooke didn’t know what I know”. The Irish rock-group Jetplane Landing have a song named “Sam Cooke”.

A fictional version of Cooke (portrayed by Paul Mooney) appeared briefly in the 1978 film, The Buddy Holly Story, leaving the stage at the Apollo Theater before Buddy and The Crickets got on. After being featured prominently in the 1985 film Witness, the song “Wonderful World” gained further exposure. “Wonderful World” was featured in one of two concurrently running Levi’s Jeans commercials in 1985 and became a hit in the United Kingdom because of this, reaching #2 in re-release. Other notable movies that featured his music are Animal House (“Wonderful World” and “Twistin’ the Night Away”), American Werewolf in London, and Cadence (“Chain Gang”).

Cooke’s songs “Bring It on Home to Me” and “Change is Gonna Come” were both featured in the movie Ali. The opening scene of the movie consisted of a live reenactment of “Bring It on Home to Me”.

These photos were sent in by Adrian Owlette
 (Friday, June 11, 2010 5:33 AM ) to go along with his very interesting comments about Sam Cooke and a UK tour he did in 1962 with Little Richard and Gene Vincent.
  (See Comments below this post)

Jet Harris, Little Richard, Gene Vincent & Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke & Little Richard

Sam and Little Richard relaxing at The Railway Tavern

Thank you, Adrian, for these great shots!



2 responses to “Sam Cooke

  1. Adrian Owlett

    Hi Guys

    Another interesting insight into a great performer. I didn’t really know much about Sam Cooke when he arrived in the UK for a tour in 1962 with Little Richard and Gene Vincent. My interest was to see Gene again, and Little Richard, but on seeing Sam perform, realised what a great talent he had and reminded me of the fantastic songs he had recorded. He brought his own guitarist (Cliff White) and drummer (Al Gardner) to back him and they were augmented by members of Sounds Inc. He was dressed very simply in a black suit and white shirt and he really did appeal to the ladies on account of his fantastic “look”. His vocal dexterity was stunning and his act ended with great rockin’ version of “Twisting The Night Away” resulting in a standing ovation. Gene was actually unable to perform his set as there were MU problems so, very unusually, he sang Be-Bop-A-Lula from the front row of the theatre with Sounds Inc creating their normal storm on-stage backing. Between the shows we habitually used to go to The Railway Tavern (a pub immediately opposite the theatre) where we were knocked out to find, at the bar, Gene, Henry Henroid (his road manager), Richard AND Sam Cooke. Jet Harris (formerly of the Shadows) was there as well – he was also on the show. I managed to speak with Jet, Gene and Sam – an evening I shall never forget. I do recall that Sam was quietly spoken and had developed a liking for English beer! He told me that he had enjoyed the tour and was totally knocked out with the reception he had received from English fans. He also said that there were plans to return to the UK in 1963 but sadly this never happened. Unfortunately the theatre in Kingston is now a “club” and the Railway Tavern site has been redeveloped. Whenever I am there I always think about that night in particular – if only people who now pass over that site knew its history!! I am e-mailing a couple of pix to you from that time.

    Rock on


  2. “A Change Is Gonna Come” was apparently (citation required) Sam’s last song recorded before his death in 1964!!! Wikipedia quote…”A Change Is Gonna Come” is a 1964 single by R&B singer-songwriter Sam Cooke, written and first recorded in 1963 and released under the RCA Victor label shortly after his death in late 1964….unquote. Many people say that this song was a prediction to his untimely death!!! Hence “A Change Is Gonna Come”!!!!

    Here’s the video which is on my website…….!!!

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