Gary: “I will deal with an absolutely fantastic singer, who left us under very mysterious circumstances when his career was still in high gear.
(born January 22, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi; died December 11, 1964 in Los Angeles, California)
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.
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
Billboard – Not Charted
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”.
Sam and Little Richard relaxing at The Railway Tavern
Thank you, Adrian, for these great shots!