Rock and Roll Heaven: Sam Cooke (1931 - 1964)

Sam Cooke was one of the greatest singers of his time who died a violent death at age 34. It was real tragedy because Sam had many hit records including, "A Change Is Gonna Come," arguably the first Civil Rights anthem. -- TDR

The wonderful Sam Cooke, as much as anyone, defined what great soul music was all about. Cooke, who died in the mid-sixties after being gunned down in a Hollywood motel under mysterious circumstances, started, like many of his contemporaries, in gospel music, eventually fronting the very popular Soul Stirrers.

His move from gospel to secular music created quite a controversy back in the fifties, but that didn't stop him from becoming one of the two or three biggest names in soul music. One of his final hits before his untimely death was the great rocker Shake. Shake was recorded in late '64 in Sam Cooke's final recording session. He wrote the song, and was inspired by a hit of the day, "C'Mon And Swim" by veteran soul singer Bobby Freeman.

Shake would go on to become a top ten hit for Sam Cooke after his death, reaching number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 music chart in early 1965. Shake would go on to be recorded by various other artists in following years, though none of their versions could touch the popularity of Cooke's original version of Shake. It would also be chosen by the Rock & Roll Museum as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock & roll.

A Change Is Gonna Come

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