Appreciating all that makes America special

Singer: Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke's first hit was You Send Me, in 1957. His last was A Change Is Gonna Come, released after his death in 1964 at age 33. Uploaded by

Smooth, distinctive, soulful. Words just don’t exist to explain the sound that Sam Cooke brought to rhythm and blues in America. Virtually every major singer of the past 30 years has claimed Sam Cooke as an influence. And once you’ve heard him, you know why.

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As with many African-Americans, Cooke had his roots in gospel music. He performed with the legendary gospel group The Soul Stirrers until he felt the time was right to establish a secular solo career. He recorded one single while still singing gospel, released under the name “Dale Cooke.” As if that voice could be hidden under another name.

Cooke’s first song to make a splash on the Billboard pop chart was “You Send Me.” He went on to release about two dozen songs that made the top 40; even more made the R&B chart. His biggest hits, with their top chart position, included:

“You Send Me” (1, 1957) • “Only Sixteen” (28, 1959) • “Wonderful World” (12, 1960) • “Chain Gang” (2, 1960) • “Cupid” (17, 1961) • “Twistin’ the Night Away” (9, 1962) • “Bring It on Home to Me” (13, 1962) • “Another Saturday Night” (10, 1963) • “A Change Is Gonna Come” (31, 1964) • “Shake” (7, 1964)

The amazing thing about that list is that “A Change Is Gonna Come,” one of the greatest songs of the rock and roll era, didn’t even make the top 20 at the time of its release. It came out just after Cooke’s premature death, ruled a “justifiable homicide,” at the age of 33.

Cooke was inducted as a charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and was named the fourth greatest singer of all time by Rolling Stone.


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One Comment

  1. Sam’s contributions American music history are definitely worthy of being noted. I took time to do so, and I’m glad to see you did as well. Thank you.

    Erik Greene
    Author, “Our Uncle Sam: The Sam Cooke Story From His Family’s Perspective”