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Sam Cooke Celebrates Black History Month

Celebrate Black History Month with this curated collection of songs from a wide range of artists highlighting the black experience.

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PLAYLIST

Sam Cooke Celebrates Black History Month

Celebrate Black History Month with this curated collection of songs from a wide range of artists highlighting the black experience.

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Before Sam Cooke – one of the most influential soul artists of all time – was crowned the “King of Soul,” he was a change maker. Born the son of a Baptist minister, he began singing at a very young age. At nineteen, he replaced legendary tenor R. H. Harris as lead singer of the Soul Stirrers, a pioneering gospel group which was a major influence on soul, Doo-wop, and Motown.

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Sam Cooke’s granddaughter, Nicole Cooke-Johnson may not have grown up with the king of soul, but his music and legacy has defined her life.

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In honor of what would have been legendary soul singer and civil rights activist Sam Cooke’s 90th birthday, his granddaughter, Nicole Cooke-Johnson, is doing a “toast” to her grandfather.

The Sam Cooke estate, Royalty Firm LLC, is holding a virtual “Toast to Sam Cooke” to celebrate the singer-songwriter. Celebrities from all walks of life — including Rod Stewart, Leslie Jordan, Jennifer Hudson, Leona Lewis, James Bay and director of One Night in Miami, Regina King — are all set to participate on social media.

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The late Sam Cooke would be 90 years old today. Cooke’s relevance and artistry has never been clearer, thanks to Regina King’s new film, “One Night in Miami,” which brings the Kemp Powers play of the same name to the big screen. The movie imagines the personal sparks, bonds, and struggles of four key Black American figures on a night in 1964 when Cooke, sports hero Muhammed Ali (then known as Cassius Clay), civil-rights icon Malcolm X and sports/film star Jim Brown all gathered to celebrate Ali’s heavyweight championship fight victory over reigning champ Sonny Liston.

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A 1964 meeting of Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown is the subject of Regina King’s riveting directorial debut.

On Feb. 25, 1964, at the Convention Hall in Miami Beach, Fla., Cassius Clay — not yet known as Muhammad Ali — defeated Sonny Liston to become the heavyweight champion of the world. That’s hardly a spoiler, and the fight isn’t the main event in “One Night in Miami,” Regina King’s debut feature as a director. The movie is about what happens after the final bell, when Clay and three men who witnessed the fight gather for a low-key after-party that turns into an impromptu seminar on fame, political action and the obligations of Black celebrities in a time of crisis.

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“One Night in Miami” leaves you on a high note.The civil rights-era drama (now streaming on Amazon Prime) depicts a fictionalized meeting between four Black legends – Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) – as they debate issues of activism and art in a Miami motel room.

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Nobody gave Cassius Clay a hope in hell, but Malcolm X had faith. Why wouldn’t he? Not only had the young upstart been training harder than his rival, World Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston, but he also had Allah in his corner. “This fight is the truth,” Malcolm told his young protégé in the days before the 1964 title bout. “It’s the Cross and the Crescent fighting in the prize ring for the first time. It’s a modern Crusades – a Christian and a Muslim facing each other with television to beam it off Telstar for the whole world to see what happens!”

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Leslie Odom Jr. is definitely one of the people who made 2020 just a tad bit easier to get through. Thanks to the Disney+ release of Hamilton and his new Christmas album The Christmas Album, it’s accurate to say the hyphenate-performer provided us with plenty of joy. And Leslie hasn’t let the pandemic slow him down, partnering with Verizon to make sure everyone is able to stay connected during this time. The Broadway star recently spoke to BuzzFeed over Zoom about that partnership, his upcoming movie One Night In Miami, and so much more. Here’s what we learned:

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On January 15, 2021, ABKCO Records will release the digital edition of One Night In Miami… (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), the album that accompanies the much-anticipated film directed by Oscar winner Regina King. The film has a theatrical release of December 25 and will be released on Amazon Prime Video January 15 2021.

One Night In Miami… was written for the screen by Kemp Powers, based on his Olivier-nominated 2013 stage play, the film is produced by Jess Wu Calder and Keith Calder of Snoot Entertainment and Jody Klein of ABKCO Films with King and Powers serving as executive producers. The film will be distributed globally by Amazon Studios.

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Regina King admits she has a few nerves about the upcoming December 25 premiere of her directorial debut, One Night in Miami.

“I’m not going to lie, anxiety comes up,” says the 49-year-old Oscar winner, one of PEOPLE’s People of the Year. “But I’m allowing myself the space to take in the moment. It’s an important story to tell.”

The story King tells in the film, the first by a Black female director to be selected by the Venice Film Festival, is about a fictionalized meeting of Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke in 1964.

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“One Night in Miami” is one of those dramas with a hooky, irresistible meeting-of-the-minds premise that places four legends in a single room, all so that we can sit back and watch the verbal-philosophical fireworks fly. The movie takes place on Feb. 25, 1964, the night that Cassius Clay, at 22, won the world heavyweight championship by defeating Sonny Liston in a title bout at the Miami Beach Convention Center. To celebrate his victory, he heads over to the modest, rather shabby small suite where his friend Malcolm X is staying at the Hampton House, a motel that caters to Black celebrities. There, the two are joined by the football superstar Jim Brown and the soul legend Sam Cooke.

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about

SAM

SAM COOKE INVENTED SOUL…
 
Driven, daring and captivating, Sam Cooke was an artist who blended sensuality and spirituality, sophistication and soul, movie-star looks and indisputable musical singer-songwriter talent.

 

 
The son of Reverend Charles Cook, Sr., a Baptist minister and Annie May Cook, Sam Cook was born on January 22, 1931, in Clarksdale, Mississippi and raised in Chicago Heights.

 

 
His early career was defined by his embrace of gospel music, joining The Soul Stirrers at the age of fifteen and serving as the group’s lead vocalist until 1957. Sam electrified the congregation with smooth, lilting vocals, thus establishing a devoted following who embraced tracks such as “Nearer to Thee,” “Touch The Hem of His Garment,” and “Jesus Gave Me Water,” among others.

 

 
In 1957, Sam recorded his first solo record, “Lovable,” under the pseudonym Dale Cook in an effort to avoid jeopardizing his standing within the gospel community. Nevertheless, it was clear the time had come for him to pursue a career beyond the Soul Stirrers. At the height of his fame in the gospel world, and with the blessing of his father, he began the transition to popular music. “You Send Me,” his earliest secular single, shot to the top of the pop and R&B charts. It was the first of twenty-nine Top Forty hits for Sam, and solidified his place as a commercial artist and innovative pop stylist.

 

By 1958, Sam was in high demand due to his newfound solo success; he signed with the William Morris Agency and appeared on numerous television programs, including The Ed Sullivan Show. That same year, he performed for the first time at New York City’s world-famous Copacabana, a nightclub previously off-limits to rhythm and blues singers. While admittedly unprepared for his first appearance at the nightclub, he had initiated the process of opening doors previously closed to black entertainers.

 

In 1960, he signed with RCA where he wrote and performed hit after hit including “Chain Gang,” “Bring it On Home To Me,” “Cupid,” “Another Saturday Night” and “Twistin’ the Night Away.” Versatile in his musical stylings, Sam tackled everything from ballads and pop, to rock ’n’ roll and rhythm and blues. Forging the distinctive link between soul and pop music, he created a diverse repertoire with universal appeal, and captivated his audience regardless of their race, age or religion.

 

Sam was also a savvy businessman; he quickly established himself as a successful entrepreneur who changed the mainstream music industry with the founding of his publishing company (Kags Music), and the launch his own record label (SAR Records). He also began producing records and writing music for other artists, helping several make the transition from gospel to pop including Bobby Womack, Johnnie Taylor, Billy Preston and Lou Rawls. As a black artist at that time, he was a pioneer and true inspirational force in his community and throughout the music industry.

 

By 1964, Sam was at the top of his game. Eager to be embraced as a crossover artist, he returned to the Copacabana for a week-long residency. Rehearsed and confident, the performances were a huge success and the recording, “Sam Cooke at the Copa” went straight to the top of the Billboard Hot R&B chart.

 

Sam’s refusal to perform for segregated audiences led to what many have described as one of the first real efforts in civil disobedience and helped to usher in the brewing Civil Rights Movement. A visionary artist who forged a link between soul and pop, he had a diverse repertoire and a platform unlike any other. Sadly, at the height of his career, Sam Cooke met an untimely demise in Los Angeles, California on December 11th, 1964. He was just thirty-three years old.

 

Sam’s most profound and impactful career moment would be the release of his first posthumous single “A Change Is Gonna Come.” A bold and inspiring statement in song, “Change” is regarded as the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement for which he intended, and one of the most profound compositions of the modern era. In 2007, it was selected by the Library of Congress as one of twenty-five recordings inducted into the National Recording Registry for preservation that year.

 

Sam Cooke’s music and legacy endures; superstar artists around the world continue to record his timeless hits including Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Bobby Womack, Tina Turner, The Supremes, Otis Redding, James Taylor, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Nas, Patti LaBelle, Ray Charles, Art Garfunkel, The Band, Eric Clapton, and George Benson.

 

Singer, songwriter, producer, entrepreneur and one of the most successful and influential artists of our time, Sam Cooke’s impact on popular music is unrivaled. His status as a cultural icon is indisputable.

 

The man, and his music, are timeless.
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For the first time on vinyl,  Keep Movin’ On, a 23-song collection that encompasses some of Sam Cooke’s best loved and most incisive songs and represents the artist both at the very pinnacle and, tragically, at the very end of his ground breaking career.
Sam Cooke’s landmark full-length Ain’t That Good News features hit songs such as “Another Saturday Night,” “Ain’t That Good News,” “Good Times,” as well as the iconic “A Change Is Gonna Come,” which became an anthem for the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.
The restored Sam Cooke At The Copa reveals Cooke’s Copacabana performance with all of the nuance and passion that his adoring audience experienced fifty-five years ago. If you never had a chance to hear Sam Cooke in person, Sam Cooke At The Copa affords the best seat in the house.

From Sam Cooke’s teenage debut as a full fledged member of the legendary Soul Stirrers in 1951 through his career as an R&B and pop phenomenon, Cooke’s amazing body of work is encapsulated in Sam Cooke: Portrait of A Legend 1951-1964, the ultimate Sam Cooke greatest hits package.

The Complete Keen Years (1957 – 1960) includes the content of Sam’s five originally released Keen LPs plus multiple bonus tracks. Also included are rare photographs and ephemera from the Keen archives, extensive session information and insightful liner notes by writer Michael Corcoran.

Cooke’s 1958 LP debut for the Keen label, simply titled Sam Cooke, is the start of his career as a secular artist after a glorious six-year run fronting gospel group, The Soul Stirrers. The sessions were arranged and orchestrated by Bumps Blackwell, the Keen Records A&R director.

Hit Kit was released in 1959 on Keen and features a number of Sam’s chart-topping hits including “Only Sixteen,” “Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha” and “You Send Me.” The album also includes standards such as “Blue Moon” and “You Were Made For Me.” 

The Wonderful World of Sam Cooke was Cooke’s last album release for Keen and takes its title from one of his signature songs the towering pop jewel “(What A) Wonderful World,” written by Cooke with Lou Adler and Herb Alpert, who were on staff at Keen at that time. 

Cooke’s second album of 1958, Encore, includes such Cooke-interpreted standards as “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” “When I Fall In Love,” “I Cover the Waterfront” and “The Gypsy.” The record was produced and arranged by Robert Alexander “Bumps” Blackwell.

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For branding, name & likeness inquiries, please contact ALG:

For music licensing, please contact ABKCO Music & Records: