Personalities | Sam Cooke | Sixties | Rock

(Vocals, 1931–64)

With his pure sweet voice, sound business awareness and keen social concerns, Sam Cooke was a key figure in the early development of soul and pop. He was already a star as a member of gospel group The Soul Stirrers when he was sacked in 1956 for releasing a secular solo single. He launched his solo career with a run of exquisite romantic ballads including ‘You Send Me’ and ‘(What A) Wonderful World’. A deal with RCA followed, which included his own label and publishing house.

A series of finely crafted pop songs such as ‘Chain Gang’ and ‘Bring It On Home To Me’ won him two separate audiences: white teenagers (RCA’s target) and black listeners of all ages (to whom he was a role model). In 1963, Dylan’s protest songs encouraged him to address civil-rights issues. Cooke recorded the majestic gospel spiritual ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’, a posthumous hit after his murder in 1964.

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


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