A Sam Cooke Playlist

There’s the voice. In its 2008 survey of the greatest singers of all time, Rolling Stone placed Sam Cooke (born January 22, 1931) at number four.

There are the songs. “You Send Me,” “Wonderful World,” “Cupid,” and many others are classics, known to generations. Cooke not only sang these songs; he composed them as well. I think that when you listen to the Sam Cooke playlist below, you’ll recognize a lot more songs of his than you realized.

There’s the business acumen. Cooke was among the first African American entrepreneurs in the music business, starting his own record label, SAR Records, in 1961. Artists signed to the label included Bobby Womack, Johnnie Taylor and Mel Carter. He founded a song publishing imprint. He created a management firm.

There’s the civil rights activist. Cooke took an active role in the civil rights movement. Inspired by Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Cooke composed and recorded “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Released as a single in December 1964, less than two weeks after he was shot to death at age 33, the recording is considered by many to be his finest work and a classic protest song.

There’s the legacy. Sam Cooke was among the charter inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He’s actually in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – once as a solo artist and once as a member of the gospel group The Soul Stirrers. He’s in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He’s a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner. He has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. In addition to his ranking on their Greatest Singers survey, Rolling Stone also placed him at number sixteen on their Greatest Artists of All Time list.

Today’s playlist pays tribute to the great Sam Cooke, with two dozen of his best recordings plus covers of a few of his hits.

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