Glossary entry for
Cooke, Sam

From Sam Cooke's entry in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

Considered by many to be the definitive soul singer, Sam Cooke (January 2, 1931 - December 11, 1964) blended sensuality and spirituality, sophistication and soul, movie-idol looks and gospel-singer poise. His warm, confessional voice won him a devoted gospel following as lead singer for the Soul Stirrers and sent "You Send Me," one of his earliest secular recordings, to the top of the pop and R&B charts in 1957. It was the first of 29 Top Forty hits for the Chicago-raised singer, who was one of eight sons born to a Baptist minister.

From age 15 to 21, Cooke served as lead vocalist for the Soul Stirrers. His first solo successes came on the Keen label, for which he recorded "You Send Me," "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons" and "Wonderful World," among others. In 1960 Cooke signed with RCA, where his hits included "Chain Gang," "Cupid," "Another Saturday Night" and "Twistin' the Night Away." A versatile singer who never really settled on a style, Cooke tackled everything from sophisticated balladry and lighthearted pop to finger-popping rock and roll and raw, raspy rhythm & blues.

Tragically, Cooke was shot to death at a Los Angeles motel on December 11th, 1964, under mysterious circumstances.

In addition to his "namecheck" of Cooke in "Real, Real Gone", Van has covered a number of Sam Cooke's songs over the years, including "Bring It On Home" on the live Too Late To Stop Now

Here are some Sam Cooke recommendations from Van-L list member Mark Watt:

Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 is an absolutely amazing live album and it shows how restrained Sam Cooke was for much of the time during his middle-of-the-road pop tenure at RCA. For every Cooke classic on RCA like "You Send Me," "Twisting the Night Away," "Bring It on Home," and "A Change is Gonna Come" (released posthumously), there's about 3 pop-tunes that are suffocating in strings and choking on bubblegum like "Everybody Likes to Cha-Cha-Cha." It wasn't Sam's fault -- his RCA producers Hugo and Luigi made him do it. (Elvis was in the same kind of RCA hit-maker straitjacket that Colonel Parker measured out for him.)

For more of the real Sam Cooke, check out an album called Night Beat that he recorded "after hours" in the studio with a small combo of musicians, including Billy Preston. And don't miss his very early recordings as the lead singer of The Soul Stirrers, the legendary gospel singing group. Sam didn't sing pure gospel for very long -- the men didn't know why he left gospel, but the little girls understood!

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