He is one of the totem poles of soul music. There isn’t a male R&B singer who isn’t descended from him, save for the likes of Ray Charles, who actually released R&B recordings before this singer did, and James Brown, who was a contemporary, but didn’t have this singer’s voice; but Brown’s greatest legacy took on a whole different direction. You could say that Charles and Brown both found their styles as their recording careers progressed. This singer had his style rooted in gospel, then carried that over to his R&B/Pop career.
Today’s song may be the template for soul/R&B ballads over the course of the last sixty years. The vocal tricks he brought from his gospel days, the melisma, just the overall performance, set the bar for folks like Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Luther Vandross and so many others. But for me, it all started here.
Sam Cooke. The legend. “You Send Me” is the song for #RomanticTuesday.
There isn’t a whole lot to add, but I’ll go with this: Cooke was a very influential artist, both behind the microphone and in the music business. His gospel background influenced the way he sang, and he brought gospel phrasing to R&B and pop. The vocal runs influenced many, both men and women in R&B. He founded his own record label and music publishing company, as well as wrote his own songs during a time when black artists didn’t have that kind of clout. He was a pioneer. It would have been interesting to see where his career would have gone, especially during the years when Stax and Atlantic Records were filling the charts with the southern soul that would play a big part in R&B in the late 60s and early 70s. Sadly, Cooke would die in 1964 under mysterious circumstances; shot dead by a motel owner in Los Angeles. The shooting was ruled a justifiable homicide.
The Sam Cooke story doesn’t start here; but much of what soul and R&B music would become does begin with this song. I hope you enjoy this classic, influential song and thanks for reading and listening.