Playlist: Sam Cooke, a Crossover Success on Many Levels

[column size=one_half position=first]sam_cookeSam Cooke was among the most important musicians of the middle part of the twentieth century.

Cooke – originally Cook – was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi. The Cooks moved to the south side of Chicago when Sam was about two years old. His father was a well-known minister; Cooke started singing gospel at the age of nine and eventually became a star.

Cooke wanted to sing popular music. It was a risky: At that time, a gospel performer crossing over to sing the devil’s music could lose their core audience. The breakthrough – or the first breakthrough — was that Cooke was able to add pop songs without losing his credibility among gospel fans.[/column][column size=one_half position=last ]

  1. Chain Gang 2:41
  2. You Send Me 2:48
  3. Bring It Home To Me 2:45
  4. Having A Party 2:38
  5. Another Saturday Night 2:47
  6. Twistin' The Night Away 2:44

Cooke didn’t just sing pop. He was a pioneer. AllMusic’s Sam Eder puts it simply: Cooke was “the inventor of soul music.” He kept the churchgoers and appealed to white audiences — and to young and old. That was a first. Chuck Berry was an another example of a crossover musician. But Berry’s appeal was almost exclusively to the kids. Everybody loved Sam Cooke.

Another breakthrough was that Cooke controlled the business side of his career. That was unprecedented, especially for African-American artist. He signed with RCA but started his own publishing company (Kags Music) to control the rights to the songs he wrote. He also started a record company (SAR) that signed other acts.

And then it all came crashing down. The events leading to Cooke’s death on December 11, 1964 still are controversial. He was shot by the manager of a seedy hotel on South Figueroa Street in Los Angeles. The contradictory scenarios focus on an attempted rape by Cooke or a conspiracy to murder him.Wikipedia lays out what is known and what isn’t very clearly. Whatever the truth is, Cooke was dead at 33.

Wikipedia and AllMusic were used to prepare this post. Photo credit: Jess Rand.


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