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Sam Cooke

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GenreSoul, R&B
AboutSam Cooke was born Samuel Cook in Clarksdale, Mississippi (he added an "e" onto the end of his name because he thought it added a touch of class). He was one of eight children of Rev. Charles and Mrs. Annie Mae Cook. The family moved to Chicago in 1933.

Cooke began his musical career as a member of a quartet with his siblings, the Singing Children, followed by a turn as a teenager as a member of the Highway QCs, a gospel group. In 1950, at the age of 19, he joined The Soul Stirrers and achieved significant success and fame within the gospel community.

His first pop single, "Lovable" (1956) was released under the alias of "Dale Cooke," in order to not alienate his fan base; there was a considerable taboo against gospel singers performing secular music. However, the alias failed to hide Cooke's unique and distinctive vocals. No one was fooled. Art Rupe, head of Specialty Records, the label of the Soul Stirrers, gave his blessing for Cooke to record secular music under his real name, but was unhappy about the type of music Cooke and Bumps Blackwell, Cooke's pop producer, were making. Rupe expected Cooke's secular music to be similar to that of another Specialty Records artist, Little Richard. When Rupe walked in on a recording session and heard Cooke covering Gershwin, he was quite upset. After an argument between Rupe and Blackwell, Cooke and Blackwell left the label, and Cooke signed with Keen Records in 1957. His first release was "You Send Me", which spent six weeks at #1 on the Billboard R&B chart but which also had massive mainstream success, spending three weeks at #1 on the Billboard pop chart.

As if a R&B performer writing his own songs and achieving mainstream fame was not innovative enough, Cooke continued to astonish the music business in the 1960s with the founding of his own label, SAR Records, which soon included The Simms Twins, The Valentinos, Bobby Womack, and Johnnie Taylor. Cooke then created a publishing imprint and management firm, then left Keen to sign with RCA. One of his first RCA singles was the hit "Chain Gang." It reached #2 on the Billboard pop chart. This was followed by more hits, including "Sad Mood", "Bring it on Home to Me" (with Lou Rawls on backing vocals), "Another Saturday Night" and "Twistin' the Night Away".

Like most R&B artists of his time, Cooke focused on singles; in all he had 29 top 40 hits on the pop charts, and more on the R&B charts. In spite of this, he released a critically acclaimed blues-inflected LP in 1963, Night Beat. He was known for having written many of the most popular songs of all time in the genre, and is often uncredited for many of them by the general public.

Cooke died at the age of 33 under mysterious circumstances on December 11, 1964 in Los Angeles, California. Though the details of the case are still in dispute (see below), it seems he was shot to death by Bertha Franklin, manager of the Hacienda Motel in South Los Angeles, who claimed that he had threatened her, and that she killed him in self-defense. The verdict was justifiable homicide, though many believe that crucial details did not come out in court, or were buried afterward. Cooke was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California.

Some posthumous releases followed, many of which became hits, including "A Change Is Gonna Come", an early protest song which is generally regarded as his greatest composition.

After Cooke's death, his widow, Barbara, married Bobby Womack. Cooke's daughter, Linda, later married Bobby's brother, Cecil.

Cooke was inducted as a charter member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

Cooke's influence has been immense: even people who have never heard one of his records, have still heard his voice and phrasing if they have listened to any Rod Stewart or Southside Johnny. Other rock artists with a notable Cooke heritage include The Animals, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Perry, and numerous others, while R&B and soul artists indebted to Cooke include Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Lou Rawls, Al Green, and again many more.

Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" was memorably featured in Spike Lee's film Malcolm X and was most recently redone by the group Solo. It has also been covered by Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, The Neville Brothers, Otis Redding and The Band featuring the vocals of Rick Danko.

Rapper 2Pac references Sam Cooke in a line of the song "Thugz Mansion", as well as rapper Nas, who references him in the song "We Major" with Kanye West. In the Roots song "Stay Cool" the lyrics say, "I got the soul of a young Sam Cooke". Other notable artists include Snoop Dogg, Capone-N-Noreaga, India.Arie, Joe Budden, the Wallflowers ("Sam Cooke didn't know what I know" in the song "Sleepwalker"), and John Legend.

Gene Vincent, who was a big fan and a close personal friend of Sam Cooke's, recorded "Another Saturday Night" in 1964 and "Bring It On Home to Me" shortly before his own death in 1971.

On The West Wing episode "A Change Is Gonna Come", James Taylor performs Sam Cooke's song by the same name in tribute to Cooke.

Cat Stevens released his Greatest Hits album (1975) with a cover of Sam Cooke's "Another Saturday Night", only the second song he released that he didn't write himself. He had also released it as a single (July 12, 1974) which reached No.4 in the U.S.

Southern radio stations can be picked up at night in Jamaica, and Cooke's recordings were a major influence on the singing style of Bob Marley.

John Landis has used many of Cooke's recording for his films, such as Animal House and American Werewolf in London.

Cooke was an influence on punk vocalist Mia Zapata of The Gits, who honored him with a cover of "A Change Is Gonna Come" on their album Enter: The Conquering Chicken.

Shortly following his passing, Motown Records released We Remember Sam Cooke, a collection of Cooke covers recorded by The Supremes.

In spring 1965 the British group Herman's Hermits reached no. 5 in the US charts and no.7 in the UK charts with their version of "Wonderful World".

In 1966 the now cult '60s British pop show Ready Steady Goes Live, the live version of Ready Steady Go!, devoted a whole programme to a live performance of Soul singer Otis Redding, who regularly covered many of Cooke's songs. One of the highlights was a rousing version of "Shake" on which Redding was joined by British Soul legends Eric Burdon, lead singer of The Animals, and chart topper Chris Farlowe. The programme is acclaimed by many as the best episode of the whole series.

After being featured prominently in the 1985 film Witness (starring Harrison Ford), the song "Wonderful World" gained further exposure. "Wonderful World" was featured in one of two concurrently running Levi's Jeans commercials in 1985 and became a hit in the United Kingdom because of this, reaching #2 in re-release. Other notable movies that featured his music are Animal House ("Wonderful World" and "Twistin' the Night Away") and Cadence ("Chain Gang").

Sam Cooke's songs "Bring it on home to me" and "Change is gonna come" were both featured in the Movie "Ali". The opening scene of the movie consisted of a live reenactment of "Bring it on home to me". The song "Change is gonna come" was played upon the death of Malcolm X.

The 1987 film Inner Space starring Meg Ryan, Dennis Quaid and Martin Short featured the music of Cooke throughout. "Cupid" was played regularly as it was said to be Ryan and Quaids' song, what is widely regarded as the film's most funny scene features Short in an inebriated state, dancing and playing a keyboard along to "Twistin' the Night Away".

In 1999 Cooke was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2004 Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #16 on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".

Erik Greene's Our Uncle Sam: The Sam Cooke Story From His Family's Perspective[9] is an introspective look into Cooke's life, music, and controversial death. Voted "Best of 2006" by, Our Uncle Sam compiles the intimate memories and never-before-seen photographs of Cooke.

In 2007 Irish rock-group Jetplane Landing released the album Backlash Cop featuring the song "Sam Cooke".

Arctic Monkeys selected "Cupid" for their Radio 1 Playlist.

He appeared briefly in the 1978 film, The Buddy Holly Story, leaving the stage at the Apollo Theater before Buddy and The Crickets got on. He was played byPaul Mooney

His songs are covered in a tour-available EP from Decemberists frontman, Colin Meloy. It is the third installment of his solo-tour Colin Meloy Sings...!

Amy Winehouse also covered the song "Cupid" for the BBC Radio 1 album "Radio 1 Established 1967"

British soul singer Adele covered the song "That's It, I Quit, I'm Movin' On" as B-side to her single 'Chasing Pavements' a bonus track for the Asian release of her studio album "19"

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