Sam Cooke with American Bandstand’s Dick Clark on why he went from gospel to pop

Bruce WarrenBlog, Home Row 1, Watch

In this interview on American Bandstand from April 4th, 1964, with American Bandstand host Dick Clark and Sam Cooke, Cooke explains why he left “spiritual” music for pop. At thirty seconds into the interview Cooke offers an honest explanation. Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1931, Cooke’s family moved in Chicago in 1933. He first became known as lead singer with the Highway QC’s when he was a teenager. At the time, Cooke became friends with fellow gospel singer and neighbor Lou Rawls and they sang together for a brief period of time in the Teenage Kings of Harmony, and then with the Holy Wonders. When Cooke left the Highway QC’s, Rawls replaced him and in 1950, Cooke replaced gospel tenor R. H. Harris as lead singer of the gospel group the Soul Stirrers, founded by Harris, who had signed with Specialty Records. Their first recording with Cooke was the song “Jesus Gave Me Water,” and they went on to become one of gospel music’s most important singing groups.

Below, listen to several songs by The Soul Stirrers.

This article was written for WXPN’S GOSPEL ROOTS OF ROCK AND SOUL. GOSPEL ROOTS OF ROCK AND SOUL has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.