Sam Cooke

Sam's Early Life

Most people know Sam Cooke for his famous song “A Change Is Gonna Come”, which is by far his most famous song. But what about his work before that song came out? Sam Cooke was born Samuel Cook on Jannuary 22, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He is known for being an American singer-songwriter, civil-rights activist, and entrepreneur. Although he was born in the deep south, he was raised in Chicago. Throughout his career, Sam Cooke would be known by his distinctive voice, which was kind of raspy, and had a different sound that a lot of people gravitated toward. However, he started out in a place that most artists do before they reach full stardom – the church. Church had to have been an integral part of his family, which is not surprising because Christianity is a large part of black culture. For sure Sam’s family held the same values as he was a minster’s child. He and those around him recognized his talents and he began singing in a gospel group called the Soul Stirrers. 

Starting and Establishing His Career

Sam noted his talents from a young age and had been singing in childhood. He knew about the Soul Stirrers before he became one of them, which he was invited to join not long after he graduated high school. He spent six years with the Soul Stirrers. During his time with the group, his voice was sure to steal the show almost all the time. From this place, he built his fanbase of different races. After all of this newfound success with the gospel group, Sam broke away from the group and gospel music altogether. His first and the rest of his hits were secular songs. But that didn’t stop people from loving him. Cooke’s first single was called “Loveable” and was released under the first name Dale, but he changed the name to Sam and added an “e” to the end of his last name. He then went on to make other songs such as “Everybody Likes to Cha Cha Cha”. Not only was Cooke of musical expertise, but business expertise as well. He proposed a contract with RCA to start his own publishing company. Soon after, the song “Chain Gang” came out and that was such a catchy tune!

An End to His Life, but Certainly Not His Career

Unfortunately, Sam Cooke’s life was cut short on December 11, 1964 after an altercation at a Los Angeles motel. His homegoing services were star studded as Ray Charles came to sing at his funeral in LA. He had another service in his home of Chicago, Illinois. Sam Cooke had written “A Change Is Gonna Come” as a response to Bob Dylan’s “Blowin In the Wind”. The song was not released until a year after his death. When an artist dies and their music is released afterward, the masses tend to cling to it more. There is a certain interest that people take, probably due to the fact that they know they will never see the artist perform the song live, or get a chance to see an interviewed about the song. Plus, without Sam in the flesh, the only way fans could enjoy him was through the legacy of his music. The song was seen as extremely political. Cooke was heavily involved in propelling Black people whether it was socially or economically. Therefore, the song seemed fitting for what Black people had been going through during his lifetime. In analyzing the song, it is interesting that the song was released after his death because we don’t get the chance to ask questions. According to research by Christopher Trigg, “A Change Is Gonna Come” can be seen as a protest song because black people were indeed looking for a positive change in their circumstances. But in the song, we don’t really know what change to expect because there is no problem presented in the song. Therefore, audiences were left to interpret the change for themselves. Without the theme of change, would the song stand for what it currently stands for? The world may never know. The song does give people hope to expect whatever change they want to happen, and perhaps that is why the song has become such a classic.

Sam Cooke Discography

Top 10 from Sam Cooke

1. A Change Is Gonna Come
2. Twistin’ The Night Away
3. Somebody Have Mercy
4. Cupid
5. (What A) Wonderful World
6. Chain Gang
7. Bring It On Home To Me
8. Soothe Me
9. Good Times
10. Having A Party


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