Sam Cooke

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  • Topic: Sam Cooke, Soul music, The Soul Stirrers
  • Pages : 5 (2293 words )
  • Download(s) : 101
  • Published : June 20, 2006
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Sam Cooke was one of the most important soul singers in history -- he was the inventor of soul music. Cooke was one of the most popular performers in both the black and white communities. He was also among the first modern black performers and composers to venture into the business side of the music business, when he founded both a record label and a publishing company as an extension of his careers as an addition to being a singer and composer. Like many artist before him Cooke tackled issues including the struggle over civil rights. Some may even say the intensity of which followed an arc that paralleled Cooke's emergence as a star -- his own career bridged gaps between black and white audiences that few had tried to surmount, much less succeeded at doing, and also between generations; where Chuck Berry or Little Richard brought black and white teenagers together, James Brown sold records to white teenagers and black listeners of all ages, and Muddy Waters got young white folks and older black transplants from the South onto the same page, Cooke appealed to all of the above, and the parents of those white teenagers as well -- yet he never lost his credibility with his core black audience. In a sense, his appeal mirrored that of the Beatles, in breadth and depth. Sam Cook was born in Clarksdale, MS, on January 22, 1931, one of eight children of a Baptist minister and his wife. Even as a young boy, he showed an extraordinary voice and frequently sang in the choir in his father's church. During the middle of the decade, the Cook family moved to Chicago's South Side, where the Reverend Charles Cook quickly established himself as a major figure in the religious community. Sam and three of his siblings also formed a group of their own, the Singing Children, in the 1930s. Although his own singing was confined to gospel music, he was aware and appreciative of the popular music of the period, particularly the harmony-based sounds of the Ink Spots, whose influence could later be heard in songs such as "You Send Me" and "For Sentimental Reasons." As a teenager, he was a member of the Teen Highway QCs, a gospel group that performed in churches and at religious gatherings. His membership in that group led to his introduction to the Soul Stirrers, one of the top gospel groups in the country, and in 1950 he joined them. Over the next six years, his role within the group and his prominence within the black community rose to the point where he was already a star, with his own admiring audience, because of his performances on songs like "Touch the Hem of His Garment," "Nearer to Thee," and "That's Heaven to Me." The group was one of the top acts on Art Rupee's Specialty Records label, and he might have gone on for years as their most popular singer, but Cooke's goal was to reach audiences beyond the religious community, and beyond the black population, with his voice. This was not welcomed at the time, as the mere act of recording a popular song could alienate the gospel audience in an instant; singing for God was regarded in those days as a gift and a responsibility, and popular music, rock & roll, and R&B were to be frowned upon, at least coming from the mouth of a gospel singer; the gap was so great that when a blues singer such as Blind Gary Davis became "sanctified" (that is, found religion) as the Rev. Gary Davis, he could still sing and play his old blues melodies, but had to devise new words, and he never sang the blues words again. Cooke tested the waters of popular music in 1956 with the single "Lovable," produced by Bumps Blackwell and credited under the name Dale Cooke so as not to attract too much attention from his existing audience. It was enough, however, to get Cooke dropped by the Soul Stirrers and their record label, but that freed him to record under his real name. The result was one of the biggest selling singles of the 1950s, a Cooke original entitled "You Send Me," which sold over two million copies on the tiny...
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