On September 11, 1957, the latest buzz was all about a new song getting plenty of airplay on the radio. “You Send Me“, the B side of a new single released by newcomer to the pop scene, Sam Cooke, was catching everyone’s attention (unlike Side A, a reworking of George Gershwin’s “Summertime”).
At the time, Cooke was a member of the gospel quartet, the Soul Stirrers. As one of eight children of a Baptist minister, Cooke began his career singing church songs with his brothers and sisters in a group they called The Singing Children. He joined the Soul Stirrers in 1950 at age 19. In 1957, crossing over to pop or R & B alienated a gospel vocalist’s fan base. The success of “You Send Me” precipitated Sam’s leaving the Soul Stirrers and heading out on his own.
“You Send Me” went to the top of Billboard’s pop and R&B charts. It established Cooke as a mainstream R&B singer and achieved legendary status as part of the foundation of soul music, a genre which Sam helped create. Cooke has been called the King of Soul for his talent and influence on other vocalists, including Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye. He had 29 Top 40 pop hits in the United States between 1957 and his death in 1964, and even more of his singles hit the Top 40 R&B charts. Cooke later started his own recording label, SAR Records, a publishing imprint, and a management firm. He took an active role in the civil rights movement.
Sadly, the man who in September 1957 had everyone joining in on “whooooa—–oh—oh-oh-oh-oh” was shot and killed by a hotel clerk in Los Angeles, California in December of 1964. The controversial ending to a stellar career – which included the hits “Chain Gang”, “Wonderful World”, “Bring it on Home to Me”, “Cupid”, “Twisting the Night Away”, “Another Saturday Night”, and “A Change is Gonna Come” – was ruled a justifiable homicide.