Although he was only on this earth for a relatively short time, Sam Cooke’s music was to influence artists for decades after his passing. Rod Stewart was once quoted as saying that for a period of two years he listened to no other recordings than those of Sam Cooke.
Sam Cooke, in some quarters is looked upon as the founder of soul, while in others one of its pioneers. As with other African-American artists of his era he began by singing gospel. His father, a Baptist minister, had taken the family from the state of Mississippi to the city of Chicago, Illinois, when Sam was a child.
A writer of his own material, Sam surely could not have envisaged a more impressive beginning than when his first hit, “You Send Me”, went all of the way to No.1, in 1957. A long succession of successful releases followed, with him even charting posthumously with hits such as “Shake” and the highly emotive “A Change Is Gonna Come”, in the midst of Civil Rights’ Movement.
Controversy still surrounds his death in a hotel, in Los Angeles, in December of 1964. I saw actual footage in a recent documentary, on Sam’s life, in which the manageress is seen to claim that she had fired up to thirty bullets into him, in an act of self-defence. Uncertainty even exists as to his actual age at the time of his obit, with me having seen it listed as twenty-nine and on another occasion, thirty-three.
Briton Craig Douglas did such a superb job of covering Sam’s “Only Sixteen” that, in 1959, it went all of the way to the top of the British charts. Dr. Hook revived this song in 1976. The British group, Herman’s Hermits, successfully revived “Wonderful World”; Rod Stewart, “Twisting The Night Away”; the Australian band, The Groove, “Soothe Me”; The Spinners, “Cupid”; and country star, Mickey Gilley, my favourite track of Sam’s, “Bring It On Home To Me”. Perhaps the greatest homage to Sam Cooke was paid by the incredibly talented Cat Stevens, when he departed from his own material to record “Another Saturday Night”.
The names of more recordings by Sam Cooke can be found in the selected playlists. Whilst there, why not peruse the list of my favourite recordings? I shall be updating this list from time to time.