Celebrating Black History: Sam Cooke

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Sam Cooke, known as the King of Soul, was an American singer, song writer and entrepreneur. The son of a minister, Cooke, began his career as a gospel singer, joining a group known as the Soul Stirrers. He soon transitioned from gospel by creating a blend of soul and pop music that appealed to both black and white audiences. He reached the top of the charts in 1957 with his song, “You Send Me.” which was then followed by more than 30 top forty hits.

But Sam Cooke was more than a singer and songwriter, he was a smart businessman. In a biography of Sam Cooke for “All Music”, Bruce Eder wrote,

“Sam Cooke was the most important soul singer in history — he was also the inventor of soul music, and its most popular and beloved performer in both the black and white communities. Equally important, he was among the first modern black performers and composers to attend to the business side of the music business, and founded both a record label and a publishing company as an extension of his careers as a singer and composer. Yet, those business interests didn’t prevent him from being engaged in topical issues, including the struggle over civil rights, ……..his own career bridged gaps between black and white audiences that few had tried to surmount, much less succeeded at doing, and also between generations…”

Sam Cooke died in December 1964, while in Los Angeles, as a result of an altercation at a seedy motel, with a woman guest and the night manager. He was shot to death by the manager allegedly in self defense but the case is still shrouded in doubt and mystery, and was never investigated the way the death of a star of his stature would be today.

One of Cooke’s last hit songs, released posthumously, was “A Change is Gonna Come” which he wrote after hearing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

“A Change is Gonna Come” soon became an anthem for social movements in the U.S. You can listen to it here: