A compelling portrait of the charismatic singer who helped create and define the musical genre today known as soul—from his early years in Chicago and his apprenticeship with gospel music to his bursting onto the pop scene as one of its first cross-over artists with the number-one hit “You Send Me” (the first in a string of rock ‘n’ roll classics including “Chain Gang,” “Wonderful World,” “Having a Party,” and “Twistin’ the Night Away”) to the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death in 1964 in a seedy motel in south Los Angeles at the age of 33. More than a mere biography, You Send Me also reads as a social history, addressing the racism that flourished within both the recording industry and society at large, crescendoing in the birth of the Civil Rights Movement. Of particular note is the fact that Cooke wrote “A Change Is Gonna Come” largely in response to Dylan’s “Blowin in the Wind” (“Geez, a white boy writing a song like that?”). Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of Cooke’s genius (that is, aside from his voice: sparkling, plaintive, resilient, beguiling) was his ability, as writer and singer, to perfom gospel, soul, ballad, rock ‘n’ roll (often combining these elements in the context of one song) and never sound in the least inauthentic or out of place. With photos, a discography and selected bibliography, You Send Me is an excellent recounting of the brilliant life and tragic times of a bona fide musical legend.
Paperback: 428 pages