Sam Cooke Biography
His first pop single, “Lovable” (1956), was released under the alias of “Dale Cooke” in order to not alienate his fan base; there was a considerable taboo against gospel singers performing secular music. However, the alias failed to hide Cooke’s unique and distinctive vocals. No one was fooled. Art Rupe, head of Specialty Records, the label of the Soul Stirrers, gave his blessing for Cooke to record secular music under his real name, but he was unhappy about the type of music Cooke and producer Bumps Blackwell were making. Rupe expected Cooke’s secular music to be similar to that of another Specialty Records artist, Little Richard. When Rupe walked in on a recording session and heard Cooke covering Gershwin, he was quite upset. After an argument between Rupe and Blackwell, Cooke and Blackwell left the label(Greene, 2006).
After several Gospel Albums, Sam decided it was time to crossover from gospel (And against almost everyone’s wishes.) to record some soul and rhythm & blues. Because of his good looks and intonation he was an instant success. His first single released in 1957 was “You Send Me” and sold over a million copies, which made Sam an “overnight success” in the business. He was on his way to becoming the biggest voice on the radio. Record producers vied to sign him to a contract. In 1960, Cooke became the first major black artist to sign with RCA Records. Sam was not happy with the deal and when the time was right, decided to start his own publishing company (KAGS Music) to keep control over his music and his own record company (SAR/Derby) to keep control of his money.
Sam married his high school sweetheart, Barbara Campbell, in 1959 and had they had three children. Tragically, Vincent their youngest, drowned in their swimming pool at age four in June 1964.