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The Best of Sam Cooke

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Album Review

The problem with issuing compilations of Sam Cooke material is one of licensing, since his early gospel work with the Soul Stirrers is owned chiefly by Specialty Records; his first secular pop hits like "You Send Me," "(What A) Wonderful World," and "Only Sixteen" are owned by Keen Records; his middle pop period and songs like "Chain Gang," "Cupid," "Twistin' the Night Away," "Having a Party," and "Bring It on Home to Me" are owned by RCA Records; and recorded material from the last year of his life, which includes the magnificent "A Change Is Gonna Come," is controlled by ABKCO Records. Any collection hoping to make a full survey of Cooke's career is thus extremely difficult to assemble. This set gets you part way there, at least on the secular side of things, combining Cooke's early pop hits for Keen Records ("You Send Me," "[What A] Wonderful World," and "Only Sixteen") with some of his later hits for RCA Records (“Chain Gang,” "For Sentimental Reasons,” and “Sad Mood”), and making a pretty cool playlist out of it. A lot of key tracks from Cooke's secular catalog are absent here, however, including RCA sides "Cupid," "Twistin' the Night Away," "Having a Party," and "Bring It on Home to Me," as well as the ABKCO-owned "A Change Is Gonna Come," so there’s a lot more to the story. Any Sam Cooke beats no Sam Cooke, though, and this set is full of enough classics to more than get the point across.

Customer Reviews

Great collection

This collection is a very good introduction to the music of Sam Cooke. Every song from start to finish showcases the talent of this wonderful artist. For a more in-depth collection check out "Portrait of a Legend" but for those just seeking the popular favorites this is a can't miss.


Born: January 22, 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 in...
Full Bio