Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
SAM COOKE | Songs by Sam Cooke
Keen (1958) | Amazon | Listen Below
Selected by Sonya Alexander
The ‘50s were rife with good music, music that reflected the changing times. Not only was rock 'n' roll becoming a force to be reckoned with, but soul music was born and its creator was Sam Cooke. Songs by Sam Cooke released in February of 1958 introduced one of the most significant soul voices of our time. Cooke's blend of passionate but satin smooth vocals, remarkable compositions, business acumen, and sophisticated good looks made him one of the first successful Black pop stars. Much like Elvis and Johnny Cash, his singing started in the church and with gospel music. He was part of a popular gospel group called the Soul Stirrers, which had a bevy of fawning female fans, so when he crossed over into secular music, he already had a built-in audience, in addition to the new fans he attracted.
The album’s first track is "You Send Me," which became a megahit for this megawatt star, hitting number one on the Billboard R&B Records and Hot 100 charts. There are also several covers of traditional songs on the album, including "Summertime," "Ol' Man River," and "Danny Boy." What's key to each of the thirteen songs is the soul-stirring conviction in Cooke's voice. He pulls from a deep well of emotion. Dubbed by biographer Bruce Eder as "the inventor of Soul music," Cooke paved the way for Billy Preston, Bobby Womack, Curtis Mayfield and a host of others. His heavenly voice earned him 30 top 40 hits in the short span of seven years and crystalized his title as the "King of Soul."