Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 378
Journalist Daniel Wolff has written about gospel and popular music for such magazines as MUSICIAN, THE NATION, and CONNOISSEUR. With the assistance of S. R. Crain (a founding member of the gospel group the Soul Stirrers), Clifton White (a friend of Sam Cooke as well as his guitarist and musical arranger), and G. David Tenenbaum (a musical researcher), Wolff has written his first book. On December 11, 1964, Cooke was found shot to death in a sleazy Los Angeles motel. Throughout the United States, his fans were in a state of shock over the fate of such a charismatic singer. At the age of thirty-three, Cooke was tragically killed and his brilliant music career was brutally cut short.
YOU SEND ME attempts to do more than piece together what transpired during the final hours of Cooke’s life, since some questions about his death may never be satisfactorily answered. YOU SEND ME is at its best in detailing Cooke’s rise to stardom. He began as a brilliant gospel singer in the early 1950’s. He was born in 1931, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, to Charles Cook, Sr.—a Christian minister—and Annie May Carl Cook. After Samuel Cooke had become a rising musical star an “e” was added to his last name. While Sam was still a child, the family moved from Mississippi to Chicago, Illinois. As a teenager, Cooke became the lead singer for the leading gospel group in the country, the Soul Stirrers. Although he was a sensation with the group, Cooke had aspirations of reaching a far wider audience. In 1957, he crossed over into the popular music market with the single, “You Send Me.” Over the next few years, Cooke produced a number of remarkable hits, including “Only Sixteen,” “Cupid,” and “Another Saturday Night.” Through great talent and dogged persistence, Cooke was able to blaze a trail for future generations of African American performers. The shadowy side of Cooke’s personality is touched upon, but not dissected as closely as may be necessary to understand how he came to such an unsavory demise. YOU SEND ME includes a discography and a bibliography, and is—on the whole—a fascinating portrait of a seminal vocalist who rose to the top of popular music during some turbulent years in American history.
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