Sam Cooke
"He changed his name, but Sam Cooke's voice was so noticeable that as soon as he sung the first note, you knew it was him.
But when the gospel people said, 'We're through with Sam,' you know you couldn't come back."
-- Bobby Womack
Sam Cooke was the predecessor of what would become "soul" music. He got his start singing gospel music at the young age of 19 for a highly acclaimed teenage group, The Highway Q.C.'s. In 1950, the lead singer for one of the most popular gospel groups, Robert Harris of The Soulstirrers quit and Sam Cooke was selected to take his place. It was a big challenge for the young Cooke, but he pulled it off, being accepted by the gospel audience and leading The Soulstirrers on continued success. By 1956 the music world was rapidly changing and the man who had brought Cooke and The Soulstirrers to Specialty records, J.W. Alexander was encouraging Cooke to record some secular material. While this might not seem like a big deal, gospel audiences at the time were very hard on artists who "sold out." But Alexander thought Cooke would be a natural appeal and Cooke, himself, was anxious to see what response he would get. In 1956, Sam Cooke recorded "Lovable" which was released under the name, Dale Cooke. But his voice was easily recognized by his gospel fans. Art Rupe, founder of Specialty, was not happy and refused to let Cooke record any more pop sounds. Bumps Blackwell was the A& R man for Specialty and wanted to continue recording Cooke. Blackwell was owed some back royalties by the label and Rupe offered him Cooke's contract in place of the royalties. Blackwell accepted and took Sam Cooke to the Keen label where he promptly released "You Send Me" that went to #1 in 1957. Over the next two years Sam Cooke had many successful R & B records and moderate success on the pop charts. Then, in 1960, Cooke signed with RCA. "Wonderful World" climbed to #12 and "Chain Gang" reached #2 that year. Over the next four years, Cooke was seldom without a record in the top 40. Then, on December 11, 1964 tragedy struck. Sam Cooke was shot to death at a Los Angeles motel. A young woman claimed he had forceably taken her to the motel and attacked her. The manager of the motel shot Cooke after he broke down her door. A coroner's jury ruled the shooting "justifiable homicide." Sam Cooke left behind a rich musical legacy. Upon review, it is not an uncommon response to be surprised at the low chart of some of Cooke's most well-known records. And it is remarkable that his only number one record was "You Send Me" from 1957. But Cooke's influence is enormous. Many of his songs found even greater success by later artists: "Only Sixteen" (#6 by Dr. Hook in 1976), "Another Saturday Night" (#6 by Cat Stevens in 1974), "Cupid" (#4 by The Spinners in 1980), "Wonderful World" (#4 by Herman's Hermits in 1960 and #17 by Art Garfunkel in 1978). Two of his songs charted after his death ("Shake" and "A Change is Gonna Come"). The haunting "A Change Is Gonna Come" was featured in the movie, "Malcolm X." Cooke was also a pioneer of Black capitalism, owning his own publishing company and record label that signed and promoted such artists as Billy Preston and Bobby Womack. Sam Cooke was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
title week debuted highest ranking weeks on chart
You Send Me 10/28/1957 1 17
Everybody Likes to Cha-Cha-Cha 3/30/1959 31 5
Only Sixteen 7/6/1959 28 4
Wonderful World 5/23/1960 12 11
Chain Gang 8/29/1960 2 13
Sad Mood 12/19/1960 29 4
That's It, I Quit, I'm Movin' On 3/20/1961 31 4
Cupid 6/26/1961 17 9
Twisting the Night Away 2/17/1962 9 13
Having a Party 6/16/1962 17 9
Bring It On Home To Me 8/4/1962 13 5
Nothing Can Change This Love 10/20/1962 12 8
Send Me Some Lovin 2/2/1963 13 8
Another Saturday Night 5/4/1963 10 9
Frankie & Johnny 8/17/1963 14 7
Little Red Rooster 11/9/1963 11 8
Good News 2/15/1964 11 7
Good Times 6/27/1964 11 7
Shake 1/16/1965 7 9
A Change Is Gonna Come 2/13/1965 31 4