Today (January 22nd) marks what would have been legendary soul singer Sam Cooke's 89th birthday.
Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1931, he was one of seven children raised by parents Annie Mae Cook and Charles Cook, Sr., a Baptist minister. Cook — he added the “e” later on for show business reasons — began his career singing gospel music in his father's church when his family moved to Chicago. At the age of 19 he was asked to join the Soul Stirrers, with whom he wrote, sang, and recorded gospel songs for Specialty Records, including “Nearer To Thee” and “Be With Me Jesus.”
In 1957, Cooke left Specialty to write and record secular music, signing with Keen Records. His first Keen sessions produced such classics as “You Send Me,” “Win Your Love For Me,” “Only Sixteen,” and “Wonderful World.” Initially Cooke recorded under the pseudonym Dale Cooke, so as not to alienate his gospel fans, but his voice was unmistakable. When “You Send Me” went to Number One in 1957, his destiny in pop music was assured. In his short career, Cooke racked up 29 Top 40 singles, including such timeless classics as “Cupid,” “Chain Gang,” “Another Saturday Night,” and “Twistin' The Night Away.”