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Music / Sam Cooke

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A Change Is Gonna Come

Samuel Cook (January 22, 1931 – December 11, 1964), known professionally as Sam Cooke, was a musician and considered by many to be the definitive Soul singer and songwriter. His work has granted him the honorary title as the “King of Soul”. He was known for his Gospel Music-singing vocals and his blend of sensuality and spirituality.

Cooke originally got his start as a member of a gospel group called “The Soul Stirrers when he was 19. He served as their lead vocalist from 1950 to 1956. His time there help attract gospel to younger crowds, particularly girls. Cooke recorded ‘’Lovable’’, his first pop song (under the name Dale Cook) as he didn’t want to offend his gospel fanbase who had a stigma against those who performed secular music. However, the group was still displeased and so he went solo.

Between 1957 to 1964, Cooke had 30 top 40 hits plus 3 posthumously. Cooke never settled on a particular style and would perform sophisticated ballads, lighthearted songs, raspy R&B, and Rock & Roll. In addition to performing and writing, Cooke was notable for getting involved in the business side of music, something that was rare for black musicians at the time, by creating his own record label and publishing company.

On December 11, 1964, Cooke was shot and killed by the manager of a motel he was staying in. The manager claimed she killed him in self-defense after he allegedly broke into her office and attacked her. The court ruled it as a justifiable homicide though Cooke's family and acquaintances have disputed the facts of the case.

Cooke has received numerous honors since his death. He was one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. He was inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the National Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame in 2013. His song ‘’A Change Is Gonna Come’’ was inducted in the National Recording Registry in 2007. He was portrayed by Leslie Odom Jr. in One Night in Miami..., a fictionalized account of a famous meeting between Cooke and his friends Malcolm X, Cassius Clay and Jim Brown.

Sam Cooke's work provides examples of the following:

  • Book Dumb: "Wonderful World."
  • Cupid's Arrow: "Cupid".
    Cupid draw back your bow and let your arrow go
    Straight to my lover's heart for me, for me,
    Cupid please hear my cry and let your arrow fly
    Straight to my lover's heart for me.
  • Cover Version: He did numerous covers throughout his career including "Summertime", "Little Red Rooster", "Frankie and Johnny" and "Blue Moon", the latter famously used in An American Werewolf in London.
  • "Days of the Week" Song: Another Saturday Night
  • Doo-Wop Progression: Wonderful World and Twistin' The Night Away use this chord progression.
  • Exhort the Disc Jockey Song: ‘’Having a Party’’ where Sam sings to the DJ to keep the records playing.
  • God-Is-Love Songs: Wonderful which he recorded as part of the Soul Stirrers. He moved away from such songs when began doing secular music.
  • Greatest Hits Album: ‘’The Best of Sam Cooke’’ amongst many others
  • Pen Name: He recorded his first solo single Loveable in 1956 under the name Dale Cooke rather than his actual name. This was because there was stigma by gospel fans, who were Sam's primary fanbase at that point, for musicians to perform secular music. This proved ineffective and he performed his later hits using his real name.
  • Something Blues: Basin Street Blues and Trouble Blues
  • Working on the Chain Gang: Chain Gang is, as the title suggests, about a chain gang.