Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke – circa 1962

 “Oh-whoah, little girl / How happy I would be / If some miracle / Could win your love for me” – ‘Win Your Love For Me’ (Sam Cooke)

In New York’s Times Square a twenty-by-one hundred foot billboard is erected.  ‘Who’s the biggest cook in town?’ it asks.  Some days later, the sign is enlarged by forty-five feet and a photograph weighing fifteen hundred pounds Is added.  The new message is ‘Sam’s the biggest Cooke in town.’  The visage of U.S. singer Sam Cooke beams down at the city.  It is 24 June 1964 and the billboard is advertising Sam Cooke’s two-week engagement at New York’s Copacabana Club.  The singer spent ten thousand dollars of his own money on this audacious billboard.  Even in an industry where giant egos are commonplace, such a gesture is breathtaking.  Ego may be just a shadow cast by ambition.  It is ambition that really drives Sam Cooke.

Sam Cooke (22 January 1931- 11 December 1964) is born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, U.S.A.  He is the son of Reverend Charles S. Cook, a Baptist minister, and his wife, Annie Mae Cook.  Sam is one of eight children.  He has four brothers (Willie, Charles Jr., L.C. and David) and three sisters (Hattie, Mary and Agnes).  The family are raised on the south side of Chicago, Illinois.  Sam’s ambitions start very early.  His brother, L.C., recalls watching Sam plant sticks in the dirt.  When he asks Sam the reason for this, L.C. is told that the sticks are Sam’s audience and he proceeds to sing to them.

To please his father the Reverend, Sam sings in the church choir and acquires featured performer status.  Sam and three of his siblings perform as The Singing Children in the 1930s.

Sam attends Wendell Phillips High School.  He begins working with The Highway QCs, the vocal group at the Highway Baptist Church.  The Highway QCs are managed by R.B. Robinson, the baritone singer in the more professional adult gospel vocal group The Soul Stirrers.  As a teenager, Sam’s idol is Rebert H. Harris.  What fascinates him is R.H. Harris’ voice.  Most gospel singers have a gruff, throaty style, but Harris is different.  His voice is just as intense, but it is higher, with an almost yodelling top end.  R.H. Harris sings with The Gospel Paraders for a while, but is better known for his work with The Soul Stirrers, the same act that includes R.B. Robinson.  R.H. Harris quits The Soul Stirrers in 1950.  R.B. Robinson offers Sam Cook the job as Harris’ replacement since Sam has been cultivating a similarly silky singing style.  Sam Cook debuts with The Soul Stirrers on their recording of ‘Jesus Gave Me Water’, an old gospel standard.  It proves to be the group’s biggest hit so far.

While he was attending Wendell Phillips High School, Sam Cook met Barbara Campbell.  She is normally described as his ‘high school sweetheart.’  On 25 April 1953 she gives birth to Sam’s daughter, Linda Marie Campbell.  [Years later, in 1977 Linda marries Cecil Womack.  As Womack And Womack, they have a hit in 1988 with the song ‘Teardrops’.]

The same year that Linda is born, 1953, Sam Cook marries his first wife, Dolores Mohawk.

From 1950 to 1957, The Soul Stirrers record for Specialty Records.  They are a popular act on the gospel circuit.  This is an almost underground form of show business.  Although these gospel acts are playing churches and meeting halls singing songs in praise of the Lord, they are also very well paid.  Someone like Sam Cook is immensely popular with the female congregation because of his good looks.  The lifestyle of the performers does not always align too closely with the church’s morality, but an indulgent blind eye is turned to their trespasses.

About the only thing that would not be forgiven is crossing over to secular music.  This is seen as an act of betrayal.  A singer who uses his gospel training to make pop music is wasting the talent that should be devoted to God.  The ambitious Sam Cook already has a following on the gospel circuit but should he risk losing those fans pursuing a wider audience in pop music?

In January 1957 the single ‘Lovable’ is released by Dale Cooke.  When asked about the song, Sam Cook pretends ‘Dale’ is one of his brothers.  Of course it is really Sam himself, trying his hand at pop.  Nobody is really fooled.  Since Sam was already performing a song called ‘Wonderful’ in which God is said to be so wonderful and this new song, with the same melody, has ‘Dale’ proclaiming his girl is so lovable, it’s hard to believe the credibility of the whole charade.  Art Rupe, the (white) head of Specialty Records, is fairly underwhelmed and sells Sam’s contract to (African-American) producer Robert ‘Bumps’ Blackwell, who sets up the Keen label for Sam Cooke’s new pop releases.  (From this point on, Sam Cook becomes ‘Sam Cooke’ with an ‘e’.  It’s possible that he may have been using this stagename earlier.)

In May 1957 Sam Cooke quits The Soul Stirrers and is replaced by Johnnie Taylor.  Sam Cooke also divorces Dolores Mohawk in 1957.  In the same year, he leaves Chicago to reside in Los Angeles, California.

“I’ve written just about all I sing,” Sam Cooke later claims.  This is true.  There are some cover versions and songs from outside composers, but the bulk of the singer’s output is of his own creation.

There are, basically, four threads to Sam Cooke’s music.

Firstly, there is gospel.  The singer may have abandoned spirituals for secular music but his approach was forged in gospel music.  It continues to underpin all his later recordings.  Characteristics that date back to his work with The Soul Stirrers include the high and light voice, the careful diction, and even his physical appeal to women.  When asked why he switched to secular music, Sam later responds that “my economic situation” was the driving force.  This may be a bit disingenuous given that there was good money made on the gospel circuit.  However, if framed in terms of Sam’s ambitions, there was certainly more money to be made in pop.  It offers a better economic situation, even if his previous status was not exactly extreme poverty.

The second component of Sam Cooke’s music is teen pop.  When Sam started with The Soul Stirrers in 1950, rock ‘n’ roll did not exist.  By the dawn of his solo career in 1957, rock ‘n’ roll is everywhere.  The prime audience for rock ‘n’ roll is teenagers, particularly white teenagers.  African-American rockers like Chuck Berry and Little Richard had already discovered this.  Their songs of school days and tight-pressed jeans were bringing them a wider audience than the more purist (i.e. black-oriented) rhythm and blues acts enjoyed.  Sam Cooke seems to pick up this cue and many of his recordings are wilfully aimed at adolescents.

Almost in contradiction, Sam Cooke also courts an adult pop audience.  Some of his songs target the supper-club crowd, the sophisticated gentry.  In this respect, Sam models himself on Johnny Mathis and, particularly, Nat ‘King’ Cole.  These are polite African-American recording artists who do not frighten the white audiences with the ‘jungle’ rhythms of rock ‘n’ roll or rhythm and blues.  That sounds horribly racist but, sadly, that is the temper of the times.

Finally, there is soul music.  Generally, Solomon Burke’s 1961 hit ‘Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms)’ is considered the first soul record.  If that’s the case then a large chunk of Sam Cooke’s work predates the introduction of soul yet exhibits many of the same traits.  For the sake of convenience, let’s call it proto-soul.  Soul takes many of the idioms of gospel and transfers them to a more secular music.  This is what Sam Cooke is doing too.  The disapproval Cooke faces in 1957 from Art Rupe, The Soul Stirrers and gospel audiences has largely evaporated in the wider community by 1961.  It may seem hard to believe the culture could change so much so quickly, but it’s true.  These are the tumultuous years of the growth of the black civil rights movement and charismatic figures such as the Reverend Martin Luther King.  As Sam Cooke’s music matures, these ideals clearly resonate with him and his music takes on an earthier, ‘blacker’ sound accordingly.

These four elements – gospel, teen pop, adult pop and proto-soul – may seem to be in opposition to one another.  How can you appeal to teens and adults?  How can you use both gospel and pop?  How can you be proudly African-American and court an urbane white audience?  The answer to the apparent conflict is ambition.  Sam Cooke is not a niche artist for a limited market.  He wants it all.  It is this drive to embrace so much that allows Cooke to tailor his music into something flexible enough to encompass all these diverse markets.

Now firmly on the road out of gospel music, Sam Cooke and his manager, J.W. Alexander, set out to conquer the pop world.

‘You Send Me’ (US no. 1, UK no. 29) backed with ‘Summertime’ (US no. 81) is released by Keen Records on 16 October 1957.  ‘You Send Me’ is written and produced by Sam Cooke.  “At first I thought it was infatuation,” he sings, “But, ooh, it’s lasted so long / Now I find myself wanting / To marry you / And take you home.”  ‘You Send Me’ is the musical equivalent of a meringue: it’s sweet, light and airy.  It also becomes a big hit.  This is partly due to radio disc jockey The Magnificent Montague giving it repeated spins.  ‘You Send Me’ hovers between teen pop and adult pop.  It’s simple enough for the kids to easily understand and appreciated but it’s not so puerile that it would embarrass the grown-ups.  Sam’s delivery is pure gospel with its delicate and precise vocal shadings and intonation.

A debut album, titled ‘Sam Cooke’ (1957) (US no. 16), follows.  The same year also sees the release of the singles ‘I’ll Come Running Back To You’ (US no. 18) (from his old label, Specialty), ‘Forever’ (US no. 60) and ‘(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons’ (US no. 17) b/w ‘Desire Me’ (US no. 47).  ‘(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons’ may be the pick of the bunch.  Even though it is written by different authors, Ivory ‘Deek’ Watson and William ‘Pat’ Best, the similar arrangement makes it sound like a more elaborate version of ‘You Send Me’.

In 1957 Sam Cooke gives a show at New York’s celebrated nightspot ‘The Copacabana’ for the first time.  It’s a prestigious gig, but Cooke receives ‘a cool reception.’  It’s easy enough to justify as being due to some nervousness on the part of the performer still learning to reach a secular crowd.  But for a man who asserts “I have an intense desire to make all my audience happy,” it bothers Cooke as a relative ‘failure’.

The following year brings Sam Cooke’s second album, ‘Encore’ (1958).  He also issues four singles.  ‘Lonely Island’ (US no. 26), a tale of big city isolation, written by George Alexander Aberle a.k.a. Eden Ahbez, with its martial rhythm is a bit sharper than Sam’s previous fare.  “We’ll have our quarrels and you’ll upset me / But what can I do?” Sam asks on the abiding ‘You Were Made For Me’ (US no. 34).  The “wah, wah, wah” backing vocals again suggest the singer’s history of working with gospel vocal groups.  ‘Win Your Love For Me’ (US no. 22) manages to channel Sam Cooke’s ambitious approach to life into a romantic song of ambitious love.  Its more varied percussive effects find a lyrical echo in the line “My heart beats like a tom-tom.”  The swaying ‘Love You Most Of All’ (US no. 26) is most notable for having its songwriting credited to Barbara Campbell, Sam’s former sweetheart, who has re-entered his life.  It’s actually written by Sam but the credit shift is an attempt to dodge a legal dispute with his old label, Specialty.

In 1959 Barbara Campbell becomes Sam Cooke’s second wife.  Already the mother of his first daughter, Linda, Barbara gives Sam two more children: a second daughter, Tracy (born 6 September 1960) and a son, Vincent (born December 1961).

Sam Cooke’s next album, ‘Tribute To The Lady – Billie Holiday’ (1959) is a salute to the jazz singer who struggled with drug addiction and died of a liver ailment on 17 July 1959.

‘Everybody Loves To Cha-Cha-Cha’ (US no. 31) is the first of Sam Cooke’s singles for 1959.  It’s a quaint tie-in to the dance step.  ‘Only Sixteen’ (US no. 28, UK no. 23) becomes one of Cooke’s signature tunes.  The narrator bemoans the fact that the girl he adored “Was too young to fall in love / And I was too young to know.”  The backing vocalists chide him until the twist in the lyric as he sings “But I was a mere lad of sixteen / I’ve aged a year since then.”  This is clearly targeted at the teen pop audience and, as such, succeeds in its aims.  Its buoyant rhythm bobs like a cork on the water.  ‘There, I’ve Said It Again’ (US no. 81) is the other single for 1959.

On 9 November 1959 the production team of Hugo and Luigi offer a guarantee of one hundred thousand dollars to Sam Cooke if he will sign with RCA Records when his contract with Keen expires.  Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore are New York Italians who have been involved with rhythm and blues acts since the mid-1950s.  RCA is the label for which Elvis Presley records, another artist who shares Sam Cooke’s desire for the widest possible audience.  Although Cooke has done well with Keen, his ambitions always push him towards bigger things.

On 14 March 1960 Sam Cooke begins a two-week concert tour of the West Indies with a show in Montego Bay, Jamaica. This is an interesting example of Cooke trying to connect with a broader black audience.  While trying to reach white consumers, he clearly has not forgotten those who share his racial origins.  Sam Cooke will tour this region two more times in the next few years.

The 1960 single ‘No One Can Ever Take Your Place’ (US no. 103) is followed by Sam Cooke’s first release on RCA Records, ‘Teenage Sonata’ (US no. 50).  More notable is his final single for Keen which post-dates ‘Teenage Sonata’.  ‘Wonderful World’ (US no. 12, UK no. 27) is composed by the trio of Sam Cooke, Lou Adler and Herb Alpert.  It starts out as a collaboration between Adler and Alpert, but they ask Sam Cooke to take a pass at the song.  He polishes and adjusts the piece.  It’s a charming novelty sung in the voice of an academically-challenged youth who is only really sure about his feelings for the girl he admires.  The school lessons are more confusing.  ‘Wonderful World’ sits comfortably next to ‘Only Sixteen’ in Sam Cooke’s array of teen pop.  Adler and Alpert are also rumoured to have had a hand in ‘Only Sixteen’.  Both men go on to form record labels: Dunhill (Lou Adler) and A & M (Herb Alpert & Jerry Moss).

Sam Cooke’s move to RCA presages him adopting a larger business role in addition to his performing.  He starts his own music publishing company (Kags Music) as well as two associated record labels (Sar and Derby Records).  Though Cooke’s own product is issued by RCA, the singer uses these companies to foster other talents such as Bobby Womack (who recorded with his brothers as The Valentinos), Billy Preston, Johnnie Taylor (Sam’s replacement in The Soul Stirrers), The Sims Twins, and Mel Carter.

The other 1960 singles by Sam Cooke show him breaking new ground.  ‘Chain Gang’ (US no. 2, UK no. 9) has a catchy melody and its metallic sound effects are attention-grabbing, but it is the mild social conscience it displays that is more significant.  Sam Cooke is taking a greater interest in justice for African-Americans.  ‘Sad Mood’ (US no. 29) has a stronger blues-orientation than his previous works.  By now, Sam Cooke is working with the producers Hugo & Luigi.

Four Sam Cooke albums are released in this busy year: ‘I Thank God’ (1960) shows he has not forgotten his gospel foundation; ‘Cooke’s Tour’ (1960); ‘Hits Of The ‘50s’ (1960) consists of cover versions of (other artists’) popular songs from the decade just passed; and ‘The Wonderful World Of Sam Cooke’ (1960).

The year of 1961 brings the singles ‘That’s It, I Quit, I’m Moving On’ (US no. 31), ‘Cupid’ (US no. 17, UK no. 7), ‘Feel It’ (US no. 56) and ‘It’s All Right’ (US no. 93).  ‘Cupid’ is Sam Cooke’s most gravity-defying effort since ‘You Send Me’.  “Cupid, draw back your bow / And let your arrow go / Straight to my lover’s heart / For me, for me,” urges Cooke.  This dreamy confection sports a cymbal stroke to simulate the sound of an arrow in flight.

‘Sam Cooke a.k.a. Swing Low’ (1961) again shows his spiritual side with its cover of the gospel standard ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’.  ‘My Kind Of Blues’ (1961) is a further exploration of the style foreshadowed by ‘Sad Mood’.  ‘Twistin’ The Night Away’ (1961) (US no. 74) yields the title track, ‘Twistin’ The Night Away’ (US no. 9, UK no. 6), as a single on 25 January 1962.  Although it’s a pleasant and popular song, ‘Twistin’ The Night Away’ is a late arrival since the twist dance craze has already spawned ‘The Twist’ by Chubby Checker in 1960 and Joey Dee And The Starlighters ‘Peppermint Twist’ in 1961.

‘Having A Party’ (US no. 17) leads the list of the rest of 1962’s Sam Cooke hits.  This is another piece of teen pop with its incredibly innocent imagery of “The Cokes are in the ice-box / Popcorn’s on the table.”  [An ‘ice-box’ was used to keep food and drink chilled before refrigerators became common household appliances.]  ‘Bring It On Home To Me’ (US no. 13) is a rock-solid groove, a slice of soul.  In call-and-response style Sam Cooke’s lead vocal is echoed by Lou Rawls’ gravelly delivery: “If you ever / Change your mind / About leavin’ / Leavin’ me behind / Bring it to me / Bring your sweet lovin’ / Bring it on home to me.”  Sam Cooke and his manager, J.W. Alexander, help secure a recording contract for Lou Rawls on the Shardee label, an enterprise of Lou Adler and Herb Alpert.  ‘Nothing Can Change This Love’ (US no. 12) is followed by ‘Somebody Have Mercy’ (US no. 70).  The latter is another gutsy performance with a nagging piano, huffing saxophones and a harmonica solo.  There is a worryingly chauvinist tone to some of Sam Cooke’s lyrics here though: “When I think I got a tamed gal, she starts actin’ up again.”   There are no new albums of fresh material released by Sam Cooke in 1962.

‘Mr Soul’ (1963) (US no. 94) opens the account for the New Year.  Singles released in 1963 begin with ‘Send Me Some Lovin’’ (US no. 13) and ‘Baby, Baby, Baby’ (US no. 66) (“A repetitious phrase helps put the story across,” claims Sam Cooke.  He adds “A song should have a lilting melody.”).  ‘Another Saturday Night’ (US no. 10, UK no. 23) is a humorous look at a lonely teenage boy.  This is a good example of what Sam Cooke considers the key to this songwriting.  “I think the secret is really observation,” being aware of “how people are thinking” to create “something people understand.”  At some point in their lives, pretty much everyone has been desperate and dateless like the protagonist of ‘Another Saturday Night’.  Next is ‘Love Will Find A Way’ (US no. 105).  It is followed by a reading of the traditional ‘Frankie & Johnny’ (US no. 14, UK no. 30).  “I consider myself an interpreter of lyrics,” Sam says and this piece gives him a chance to show that ability, even if it is a strange claim for a man who prides himself on writing most of the songs he sings.

In June 1963 Sam Cooke’s son, Vincent, dies.  The 18 month old drowns in a swimming pool.  Sam blames his wife, Barbara, for not watching the child closely enough.

In the second half of 1963 New York accountant and aspiring manager Allen Klein begins handling Sam Cooke’s finances.

In mid-1963 a gig Sam Cooke plays before an African-American audience in Florida is recorded.  It is issued many years later as the live album ‘Live At The Harlem Square Club, 1963’ (1985) (US no. 134).  It’s of interest chiefly because it shows Sam trying to connect with a black audience without making any concessions to the sensibilities of whites.

In 1963 Sam Cooke and his wife are arrested in Shreveport, Louisiana, for disturbing the peace.  The cause of the ruckus is their attempt to book in to a ‘whites only’ motel.

‘Night Beat’ (1963) (US no. 62), released in August, is described as ‘a beautifully self-contained, dark, moody assembly of blues-oriented songs.’  Amongst them is a version of Willie Dixon’s ‘Little Red Rooster’ (US no. 11) that features a wheezing organ, bluesy piano and easy-going drums.

On 25 February 1964 Sonny Liston is defeated in a boxing match with Cassius Clay (who will later become better known as Muhammad Ali).  After the bout, there is one man Clay wants by his side: Sam Cooke.  Clay is a tireless self-promoter but he giggles like a schoolgirl to be in the presence of Cooke.  This illustrates just how famous Sam Cooke is by this time.  He even has Cassius Clay record a single for him, ‘Hey Hey The Gang’s All Here’.

Sam Cooke, like virtually every other recording artist at this time, is more focussed on singles than albums.  However, if one album can be nominated as his best, the most fitting candidate may be ‘Ain’t That Good News’ (1964) (US no. 34), released in March.  The title track, ‘Ain’t That Good News’ (US no. 11) finds Sam’s character elated that a girl loves him, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see it could easily be transposed to the Lord who loves him.  This is an inversion of the same switch that powered ‘Dale’ Cooke’s re-write of ‘Wonderful’ as ‘Lovable’.  The jaunty 1963 single ‘Another Saturday Night’ is also included on this disc.  The album contains another notable song but, since it is released later as a single, it will be dealt with in due course.

On 21 June 1964 Sam Cooke again plays the Copacabana Club in New York.  This two week engagement is publicised by a giant billboard.  While Cooke’s 1957 gig at the same venue was not his finest hour, this time he is out to redress the situation and triumph.  A live album of the show, ‘Sam Cooke At The Copa’ (1964) (US no. 24) shows the singer ‘at his most genial and non-confrontational.’  Although only a year later, this is markedly different to his Florida show at The Harlem Square Club in 1963.

Other 1964 singles for Sam Cooke are ‘Good Times’ (US no. 11), ‘Tennessee Waltz’ (US no. 35), ‘Cousin Of Mine’ (US no. 31) and ‘That’s Where It’s At’ (US no. 93).

Late in the year, Sam Cooke is invited to participate in an anniversary concert for The Soul Stirrers in Chicago.  Although Sam is happy to sing gospel with the vocal group so important to his early days as an entertainer, the crowd is openly hostile.  It seems that ‘betrayal’ is not easily forgotten.  Cooke leaves the stage in tears.

On 10 December 1964 Sam Cooke picks up a 22 year old Eurasian girl named Elisa Boyer.  He offers to drive her home, but instead takes her to a motel on South Figueroa in Los Angeles where he registers them as ‘Mr and Mrs Cooke’.  Elisa Boyer insists Cooke take her home but he forces her into the motel room where he proceeds to rip off her clothes.  When he goes into the bathroom, she seizes the opportunity to flee with her own apparel and most of his.  Elisa Boyer phones the police from a nearby phone booth.  Clad only in his sports coat and shoes, Sam Cooke pursues her, mistakenly believing she has taken refuge in the apartment of the motel’s manager, a 55 year old African-American woman called Bertha Franklin.  Cooke first pounds on the manager’s door, then breaks it down.  He strikes Bertha Franklin twice with his fists.  She pulls a .22 calibre pistol and shoots her assailant three times, one bullet hitting him in the chest.  Despite being mortally wounded, Cooke charges Franklin again, so she picks up a stick and bludgeons him.  When the police arrive, Sam Cooke is dead.  The date is 11 December 1964.

This account of what occurred on the night of 10-11 December 1964 is based on the testimonies of Elisa Boyer and Bertha Franklin.  Perhaps, had he lived, Sam Cooke would offer a different explanation.  There are those who refuse to believe he would behave in such a manner.  Some think the investigation of the death was poorly handled and the case should be re-examined.  There are even rumours that Cooke’s death was arranged by gangsters wanting control of his publishing interests.

There are hysterical scenes at A.R. Leak’s Funeral Home at 7838 So. Cottage Grove in Chicago when there is a public viewing of the late singer’s body on 19 December 1964.

In the wake of Sam Cooke’s death, as foreshadowed earlier one more single is pulled from the album ‘Ain’t That Good News’.  The posthumous ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ (US no. 31) is Sam Cooke’s finest song.  If soul music does not exist before 1961, then there is no reason not to call this 1964 release an example of soul.  Its grainy words sketch out troubled times but offer hope for a better future.  It seems tailor-made for the civil rights movement.  In the light of the singer’s demise, some lines take on added meaning: “It’s been too hard living / But I’m afraid to die / I don’t know what’s up there / Beyond the sky.”

‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ is actually the flipside of ‘Shake’ (US no. 7), a 1965 single of considerably lighter tone.  ‘Shake’ is another high-spirited dance number in the style of ‘Twistin’ The Night Away’.  Two more albums are released that year, ‘Shake’ (1965) (US no. 44) and ‘Try A Little Love’ (1965) (US no. 120).  A fistful of singles also appear during the year.  ‘It’s Got The Whole World Shakin’’ (US no. 41), ‘When A Boy Falls In Love’ (US no. 52), ‘Ease My Troublin’ Mind’ (US no. 115) and ‘Sugar Dumpling’ (US no. 32).  The shelves finally seem bare with the release of ‘Let’s Go Steady Again’ (US no. 97) in 1966, Sam Cooke’s final single.

Sam Cooke was a man of ambition.  This allowed him to make his mark with spirituals, pop, and soul.  Without his tremendous self-belief and appetite for popular success, such achievements would, for all his talent, probably have gone unfulfilled.  Sometimes his ego resulted in episodes of excess such as the self-promoting billboard and maybe even the distasteful events that led to his death.  Sam Cooke was not perfect or an angel, but in the recording studio his best works come close to perfection and the man could sing like an angel.  Sam Cooke was ‘a true pioneer of black music.’  ‘His phrasing and articulation may never be surpassed.’


  1. ‘Rock Stars’ by Timothy White (Columbus Books, 1984) p. 72, 74, 75
  2. ‘Rolling Stone Rock Almanac’ by the Editors of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (Papermac, 1984) p. 32, 47, 49, 53, 56, 65, 68, 89, 150
  3. Notable names database – as at 11 July 2013
  4. ‘The Sam Cooke Story Pt. 1 & 2’ – Video documentary (posted on You Tube, 7 October 2012, 18 October 2012)
  5., ‘Sam Cooke’ by Bruce Eder as at 8 July 2013
  6. as at 3 June 2013
  7. ‘American Bandstand’ (U.S. television program) Sam Cooke interview conducted by Dick Clark (4 April 1964)
  8. ‘The Rolling Stone Illustrated History Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’, ‘Sam Cooke’ by Joe McEwan, ‘Soul’ by Peter Guralnick  (Plexus Publishing, 1992), p. 135, 137, 138, 139, 261
  9. ‘Rhythm and Blues Magazine’ – Sam Cooke interview conducted by Don Paulson (July 1964) reproduced on
  10. as at 14 July 2013
  11. ‘The Illustrated Rock Handbook’ edited by Roxanne Streeter, Ray Bonds (Salamander Books, 1983) p. 49, 246, 249, 256
  12. ‘The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time’ – ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (February 2004) p. 71

Song lyrics copyright ABKCO Music Ltd. admin. by MCA Music Ltd.

Last revised 19 November 2013


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