The Life and Legacy of the King of Soul

The Life and Legacy of the King of Soul image

A spark in January of 1931 would change music forever.  

In Clarksdale, MS, a city of 15,000 people, Sam Cooke was born. 

Cooke’s impact on music is immeasurable – he transformed the traditional gospel music he grew up on to something louder and prouder – soul music. After receiving his father’s blessing, he recorded his first secular single, “You Send Me.” 

Our show is aptly named – You Send Me, signifying that point where Cooke shot up the charts. This single was the first of twenty-nine Top Forty hits for him, but it also solidified his place as an innovative artist. 

In 1958, a time of racial divide, Cooke’s music bridged the gap that had fractured many communities. His performances on the Ed Sullivan Show and at the Copacabana opened the door for black artists. 

In the following years, Cooke signed with RCA where he recorded “Chain Gang,” “Bring It Home to Me,” “Cupid,” “Another Saturday Night” and “Twistin’ the Night Away.” No matter the genre song, his voice was enthralling. 

Over the years, Cooke created his own publishing company, Kags Music and record label, SAR Records. He fought to win the songwriting and publishing rights of his own music. But his refusal to perform for segregated crowds is one of the first instances of civil disobedience, which sparked the Civil Rights Movement that we know today. 

However – perhaps the most impactful moment of his career occurred posthumously. The release of his single “A Change is Gonna Come” ushered in the urgency and defining moment of the Civil Rights Movement. “Change” became the anthem of the movement, with lyrics of hope and optimism. It has since been used to commemorate some of the most pivotal moments of change. 

The significance of Sam Cooke’s career and artistry was, and still is, his capability to “captivate audiences regardless of race, age and religion” (“HOME – Sam Cooke Official Website”). For Casa Mañana, You Send Me is about honoring and celebrating soul music along with the stories and lives that it empowers. What was and is the underlying current of the genre? What songs connect with people in a way that news and current events can’t? Cooke’s music has those answers. 

We are honored to pay tribute to an artist that made waves in music and the community. The legacy that he leaves behind is rich. His “golden voice” continues to teach generations about the art of observation and the power of action. We hope that you have the chance to hear Curtis Wiley, from Broadway’s Ain’t Too Proud, along with Braxton Johnson and Phillip Brown croon your favorites by the legendary Sam Cooke. 

To Sam Cooke – champion, pioneer, King of Soul.


Photos by ABKCO Music & Records.