Credit: Shutterstock/Sam Cooke

Voices ought not be measured by how pretty they are...they matter only if they convince you that they are telling the truth.

The 'King of Soul', Sam Cooke was the genres pre-eminent figure and earliest star. In his short career spanning less than 15 years, he was able to become one of the first singers to find an audience with both black and white Americans, and his song A Change is Gonna Come was one of the defining songs of the Civil Rights movement in the USA.

One of eight children, Sam grew up in Chicago and attended the same school as Nat 'King' Cole. Sam took his first step towards musical fame at the age of 19, when he became the singer of Gospel group The Soul Stirrers, who had been performing in churches, schools and town halls for decades without breaking into the mainstream. After his first recording with the band, they instantly gained a new wave of fans, and girls would rush the stages they performed on, trying to catch a glance of the new singer.

Sam was remarkable not only for his powerful and melodic voice, but for being a songwriter in an era when singers would typically perform hits written by others. He wrote a string of hits from 1957 until his death in 1964, including Twisting the Night Away, Wonderful World and Chain Gang. His death shocked the music world in 1964, and the details surrounding his ‘justifiable homicide’ are still debated. What cannot be disputed though, is the influence that Sam Cooke had on Soul, R&B and Gospel music - he remains a legend.