Sam Cooke was a singer, songwriter, activist and entrepreneur, all before 30 years-old.
Samuel Cook was born in Mississippi and became ‘Cooke’ to signify the start of his new life in 1957. Cooke was the fifth of eight children from the conservative household of Rev. Charles Cook. He started as a gospel singer but soon made his way over to pop where he became influential as a singer and as a composer, being dubbed the ‘King of Soul’ for his impact on pop culture and very distinct sound.
Cooke had an enormous 30 U.S. top 40 hits with the stand-outs being “You Send Me”, “A Change is Gonna Come”, “Wonderful World” and “Twistin’ the Night Away”. “You Send Me” spent six weeks at the to pop the Billboard R&B chart and three at the top of the Billboard Pop chart, selling over 1.7 million copies. Cooke was hands-on and handled the business side of his music as well leading to him starting his record label, SAR Records. He became the influence for many artists to pursue business and own record labels.
Along with the record label, Cooke also owned a music publishing company, Kags music, and a management firm. Artists like Michael Jackson, Heptones, Otis Redding, Rod Stewart, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Al Green were influenced heavily by Sam Cooke with many modern artists heralding him as an influence as well. Bruce Eder wrote that “… Cooke’s natural singing voice and effortless delivery have never been surpassed.”
At the young age of 33, Cooke was tragically killed amidst a confrontation at a hotel and we are left wondering how much bigger his influence might have been.
Sam Cooke was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.