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Sam Cooke


1931

Samuel Cook, better known as Sam Cooke, is born in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He grows up in Chicago, where his father, the Rev. Charles Cook, becomes minister at Christ Holiness Church.

1950

Sam Cooke replaces gospel legend R.H. Harris in the Soul Stirrers. Previously, Cooke had sung with the Pilgrim Travelers and the Highway QC’s, both gospel groups. Cooke will sing with the Soul Stirrers for six years.

1956

Sam Cooke leaves the Soul Stirrers. He is replaced by Johnnie Taylor.

1957

Sam Cooke’s first solo recording for the pop market, “Lovable"—a reworking of the Soul Stirrers’ “Wonderful"— is released on Specialty Records. Wary of alienating his gospel following, Cooke releases the single under the pseudonymous name “Dale Cook.”

1957

Sam Cooke’s contract with Specialty is assigned to Keen Records, for which he begins recording ballads like “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons.”

1957

“You Send Me,” Sam Cooke’s third single, released on Keen Records, becomes the #1 song in the country. It deposes “Jailhouse Rock,” by Elvis Presley, from its seven-week run at the top of the charts.

1958

Sam Cooke, the singer’s debut album, is released on the Keen label. It reaches #16 on Billboard’s album chart.

1959

Sam Cooke’s “Only Sixteen,” a sop to the teen market, and “Everybody Likes to Cha Cha Cha,” an ode to a dance craze, make the lower reaches of the Top Forty.

1959

Sam Cooke hits #2 on the R&B chart and #8 on the pop chart with “Young Blood”.

1960

RCA signs Sam Cooke to a recording contract that pays him a $100,000 advance.

1960

Sam Cooke signs with RCA records.

1960

Sam Cooke hits #12 with the Keen released “Wonderful World.”

1960

The gospel-style “Chain Gang” hits #2 on both the pop and R&B charts, becoming Sam Cooke’s second million-selling single. It is held back from the top spot from the abysmal novelty song “Mr. Custer,” by one Larry Verne.

1960

Sam Cooke hits #29 with “I’m In a Sad Mood”.

1961

The initial release on SAR Records, the independent label founded by Sam Cooke and manager J.W. Alexander, is by the Soul Stirrers (now featuring Johnnie Taylor as lead vocalist). The label serves as an outlet for Cooke’s prolific songwriting and production talents.

1961

Sam Cooke hits #17 with “Cupid”.

1962

Sam Cooke hits #1 on the R&B chart and #9 (3/24) on the pop chart with “Twistin the Night Away”, #2 on the R&B chart and #13 (8/25) on the pop chart with “Bring It On Home To Me” and #2 on the R&B chart and #12 (11/17) on the pop chart with “Nothing Can Change This Love”.

1962

Sam Cooke hits #9 with “Twistin’ the Night Away”.

1962

One of the great double-sided 45s of the rock and roll era, Sammy Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me” b/w “Having a Party,” is released. Both are huge R&B hits (#2 and #4, respectively), and each also fares well on the pop side (#13, #17).

1962

After getting hurt during a jump, Jimi Hendrix gets an honorable discharge from the Army. Over the next three years, he will play numerous gigs and studio sessions with such R&B stars as Little Richard, the Isley Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner and Sam Cooke.

1962

Sam Cooke hits #17 with “Havin’ A Party”.

1962

Sam Cooke hits #13 with “Bring It On Home To Me”.

1963

Sam Cooke’s late show at the Harlem Square Club in Miami, Florida, is recorded by RCA for possible release as a live album.

1963

Sam Cooke hits #10 with “Another Saturday Night”.

1964

Sam Cooke is shot to death during a confrontation with a hotel manager in South Los Angeles. The death is ruled a justifiable homicide. Over 200,000 fans pay their respects to Cooke’s coffin in Glendale, California, where Cooke was buried one week later.

1965

Another epic single, “Shake” b/w “A Change Is Gonna Come” is issued posthumously. The latter, a civil-rights song written by Sam Cooke after hearing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” is considered his greatest composition—and a hint at the direction Cooke might have taken had he lived.

1985

Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963 is finally released, 22 years after it was recorded. The album reveals a rawer, grittier side to Sam Cooke, prompting a critical reassessment.

1986

Sam Cooke is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the first induction dinner, held in New York City. Three years later the Soul Stirrers will also be inducted.

Sam Cooke