Sam Cooke

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Sam Cooke
Photo by Jess Rand/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Commonly known as the King of Soul for his distinctive vocals, Sam Cooke first reached the top of the charts in 1957 with “You Send Me.” A string of pop and R&B hits soon followed, including “Only Sixteen” and “Everybody Loves To Cha Cha Cha” “Wonderful World,” “Chain Gang” and “Twistin’ the Night Away”, (Cooke had 30 US top 40 hits between 1957 and 1964).

Born on January 22, 1931, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, by age nine Sam, with his two sisters, formed a gospel trio the Singing Children. Sam Cooke later sang with the gospel group the Soul Stirrers.

Cooke was also among the first modern black performers and composers to attend to the business side of his musical career. He founded both a record label and a publishing company as an extension of his careers as a singer and composer. He also took an active part in the Civil Rights Movement.

No one knows for certain what exactly happened in the early hours of December 11, 1964. Cooke had been out the night before, having dinner with producer Al Schmitt and Schmitt’s wife, Joan. Well-wishers kept stopping by the table, interrupting their conversation. Sam eventually got pulled away to the bar. At a booth near the bar, there was a baby-faced 22-year-old Asian girl, sitting with three guys. Sam caught her eye. He’d seen her around. One of the guys, a guitar player Sam knew, introduced them. The girl’s name was Elisa Boyer. Before long, the pair were together in a booth.

In the early hours, the couple left the bar in Sam’s brand new red Ferrari and headed to a nightclub called PJ’s, once in the club, Sam got into a heated argument with some guy who was hitting on Boyer. She asked Sam to take her home, and they left at 2 a.m.

They eventually ended up at the Hacienda Motel were the couple had some type of altercation in their room, and Cooke then ended up in the motel’s office. He reportedly clashed with the motel’s manager, and the manager shot Cooke. Cooke died from his injury, which the manager claimed was inflicted in self-defense. It was later ruled justifiable homicide.

Thousands turned out to mourn the legendary singer, over 200,000 fans lined up for more than four city blocks to view his body at the A.R. Leak Funeral Home in Chicago.

Two singles and an album were released in the month after his death. One of the singles, “Shake”, reached the top ten of both the pop and R&B charts. The track “A Change is Gonna Come”, is considered a classic of Civil Rights Era Protest Music.

Cooke left behind a tremendous musical legacy, and as a pop icon, Cooke has endured through his songs. Otis Redding and Al Green are among the artists who have covered his work.

Cooke’s pure, clear vocals were widely imitated, and his suave, sophisticated image set the style of soul crooners for the next decade. Cooke was a true superstar in his lifetime. After his death, his legend became even larger. His influence can be heard in the precise phrasing of Smokey Robinson, in the conscientious songwriting of Marvin Gaye in the raw emotion of Lou Rawls and in Aretha Franklin’s controlled passion. He was inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame in 1986.

Important Dates In The Life Of Sam Cooke:

On this day in music
29 Jan 2021
American electric blues, Texas blues and jazz blues tenor saxophonist, Grady Gaines died age 86. He performed and recorded with Little Richard in the 1950s and later worked with Little Willie John, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and Joe Tex.
3 Oct 2007
American jazz bassist Lloyd Trotman died of pneumonia age 84. He backed numerous jazz and rock and roll artists in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s including Sam Cooke, James Brown and The Everly Brothers. He provided the bass line on Ben E. King's 'Stand by Me'.
5 Mar 2007
Records by the Rolling Stones and Paul Simon were chosen for preservation by the US Library of Congress. The Stones ’(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ and Paul Simon's Graceland album entered the National Recordings Registry, which preserves historic works for future generations. Other recordings chosen this year included Carl Perkins' 'Blue Suede Shoes', 'Be My Baby' by The Ronettes, 'A Change Is Gonna Come' by Sam Cooke and the eponymous album The Velvet Underground and Nico.
6 May 2004
American jazz guitarist Barney Kessel died of a brain tumor aged of 80. He was a member of the the Wrecking Crew and was also a member of the Oscar Peterson Trio and worked with Billie Holiday, Sam Cooke and many others. He appeared on The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album.
2 Mar 2003
Singer, songwriter Hank Ballard died from throat cancer. Wrote and recorded 'The Twist' but it was only released on the B-side of a record. One year later, Chubby Checker debuted his own version of 'The Twist' on Dick Clark's Philadelphia television show. It topped the charts and launched a dance craze that prompted the creation of other Twist songs, including Twist and Shout by the Isley Brothers and 'Twistin' the Night Away' by Sam Cooke.
31 May 2000
US soul singer Johnnie Taylor died of a heart attack in a Texas hospital shortly after his 62nd birthday. Taylor had been a member of The Highway QCs and The Five Echoes and in 1957 Taylor replaced Sam Cooke in The Soul Stirrers. He scored the 1976 US No.1 'Disco Lady'.
10 Nov 1997
American session guitarist Tommy Tedesco died of lung cancer aged 67. Described by "Guitar Player" magazine as the most recorded guitarist in history recording with The Beach Boys, Everly Brothers, Supremes, The Monkees, The Association, Barbra Streisand, Elvis Presley, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Zappa, Sam Cooke, Cher and Nancy and Frank Sinatra. And played on many TV themes including Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, M*A*S*H and Batman.
18 Sep 1979
The Eagles released 'Heartache Tonight' from their album The Long Run. The song originated from an jam session between Glenn Frey and J. D. Souther who would visit Frey's home in Los Angeles whenever he was in town on tour. Frey and Souther wrote the first verse while listening to Sam Cooke songs. In the heat of jamming, Frey called Bob Seger on the phone and sang him the verse. Seger then blurted out the chorus.
11 Dec 1964
Soul singer Sam Cooke was shot dead at the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles, California. Bertha Franklin, manager of the motel, told police that she shot and killed Cooke in self-defence because he had attacked her. Police found Cooke's body in Franklin's apartment-office, clad only in a sports jacket and shoes, but no shirt, pants or underwear. The shooting was ultimately ruled a justifiable homicide.
13 Nov 1964
Decca Records released The Rolling Stones' 'Little Red Rooster'. Written by Willie Dixon (as The Red Rooster), and previously recorded by Howlin’ Wolf and Sam Cooke, the single was recorded at Chess Studios in Chicago. The single was a No.1 hit in the UK and remains the only time a blues song has ever topped the UK pop chart.
29 May 1961
Ricky Nelson started a two week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with 'Travellin' Man'. Sam Cooke turned the song down, the B-side was the Gene Pitney song 'Hello Mary Lou' which became a double A side UK No.1.
7 Sep 1959
Craig Douglas was at No.1 on the UK singles chart with his version of the Sam Cooke hit 'Only Sixteen'. Born Terence Perkins, he was employed as a milkman before becoming a professional singer and was known as the 'Singing Milkman'.
1 Dec 1957
Buddy Holly and the Crickets appeared on 'The Ed Sullivan Show', performing 'That'll Be The Day' and 'Peggy Sue'. Sam Cooke was also a guest on the same show performing 'You Send Me'.
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Robin Douglas Brown

    December 11, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    He was murdered; plain and simple! I wonder if the cops would be so quick to rule against him if he had of been white?

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