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Specialty Profiles: Sam Cooke With the Soul Stirrers

Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers

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Album Review

When Art Rupe of Specialty Records first heard the master tape of Sam Cooke's "You Send Me" in 1957, he declared that the track sounded "too white" for his label's R&B and gospel audience, and he passed on it, letting Cooke take the master tape out the door and over to Keen Records, who subsequently released it, and the rest, as they say, is history. Rupe was simply hoping Cooke would stick with the successful gospel sound he had been tracking since 1951 for Specialty as the lead singer of the legendary Soul Stirrers, a run that produced genre classics like "Jesus Gave Me Water," "Peace in the Valley," "The Last Mile of the Way," and the Cooke-composed "Touch the Hem of His Garment," all of which are included on this 14-song survey of the Soul Stirrers' Specialty Profiles. But Cooke wanted to sing secular material, as well, and he tested the water with "Lovable," originally released under the name Dale Cook. After "You Send Me" was a massive pop hit for Keen, Rupe dusted off another of Cooke's secular experiments, "I'll Come Running Back to You," overdubbed Rene Hall on guitar, and released it after the fact, watching it ride the coat tails of "You Send Me" up into the charts. Truth is, Cooke could sing anything, sacred or secular, and make it sound like pure soul, and there are many who feel that some of his finest vocals were done while he was with the Soul Stirrers. The evidence for that claim is here. [This profile collection includes a bonus disc that is essentially a sampler of other artists who recorded for Specialty Records.]


Born: 22 January 1931 in Clarksdale, MS

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s

Sam Cooke was the most important soul singer in history — he was also the inventor of soul music, and its most popular and beloved performer in both the black and white communities. Equally important, he was among the first modern black performers and composers to attend to the business side of the music business, and founded both a record label and a publishing company as an extension of his careers as a singer and composer. Yet, those business interests didn't prevent him from being engaged...
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