Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Death of Sam Cooke

**Update: Interview with Erik Greene V

CL: What goes through your mind when you hear 'Cupid' or 'Wonderful World' on the radio?

Greene: I feel an enormous sense of pride because my uncle was an amazing talent. He wrote most of his major hits — "You Send Me," "Chain Gang," "Only Sixteen," "Cupid," "Twistin' the Night Away," "Having a Party," "Another Saturday Night," "A Change is Gonna Come" — I could go on and on. He was the first African-American artist to own a record label, and he would write, arrange, and produce songs for the artists on his label. At a time when someone had to take a stand, he became the first artist to refuse to sing to segregated audiences.

Sam Cooke
Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke recognized the business end of the record industry and negotiated ownership of his publishing rights when he signed his contract with RCA. Very few entertainers, black or white, could have successfully made such a demand. Ray Charles had sold millions of records on the Atlantic label but was refused his publishing rights when he confronted the label's owners. Sam recognized how important it was to take control of one's career, and he wouldn't hesitate to share such sacred knowledge to anyone who was willing to listen.

Besides being a tremendous talent, he was a tremendous human being. He never forgot where he came from and blended in with the common man despite his superstar status. His generosity came from his father, Reverend Charles Cook Sr. During Sam's formative years, Papa Cook would often house and feed hungry children in the neighborhood, citing the fact that his children may be in need one day when he wasn't around. Sam never forgot the lessons learned as a child and carried them forward in his short but memorable lifetime.

It warms me to hear a Sam Cooke song at an unexpected time because it brings back all the loving memories of my early childhood. My mom would play his records and tell me stories about how special Sam made her and the rest of the family feel. This is the side of Sam Cooke I remember growing up, and the Sam Cooke I chose to share with the world in Our Uncle Sam.

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