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The Poetics of American Song Lyrics$
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Charlotte Pence

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9781617031564

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617031564.001.0001

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The Triumph of Icarus: Sam Cooke and the Creative Spirit

The Triumph of Icarus: Sam Cooke and the Creative Spirit

(p.145) The Triumph of Icarus: Sam Cooke and the Creative Spirit
The Poetics of American Song Lyrics

Peter Guralnick

University Press of Mississippi

A preeminent gospel singer of his day, Sam Cooke made a highly successful crossover in 1957 with “You Send Me.” Composed by Cooke himself, it was his first pop single. The song went on to beat Elvis Presley for the Number One position on the pop charts, sparking a wave of criticism from the church and an exodus of prominent gospel singers following in Cooke’s wake, giving rise to a template for the gospel-based R&B that came to be known as “soul music.” This chapter examines Cooke’s compositional approach and how his gospel songs, from new standards such as “Jesus Be a Fence Around Me” to “A Change Is Gonna Come,” earned a unique place in American vernacular culture.

Keywords:   soul music, Sam Cooke, You Send Me, gospel singers, gospel songs, vernacular culture

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