The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

2005: Sam Cooke

 Sam Cooke:

A Change is Gonna Come

One of soul music’s primary architects, Sam Cooke was the honoree for the 10th annual American Music Masters series.  Sam Cooke’s extraordinary voice and unforgettable melodies appealed to black and white audiences, and the popularity of his music helped introduce many other black performers to mainstream audiences.  His music expanded from its gospel roots into more mainstream R&B and pop genres while managing to keep the interest of many among his core gospel following.  Cooke was also a force in harnessing the power of music for a socially conscientious cause.  He recognized both the growing popularity of the early folk-rock balladeers and the changing political climate in America, using his own popularity and marketing savvy to raise the conscience of his listeners with such classics as “Chain Gang” and “A Change is Gonna Come.”

Events celebrating Sam Cooke's life and career included interviews, film screenings, Rockin' the Schools classes, a conference and performances.


Gospel Tribute at the State Theatre

Sunday, November 6

  • Aretha Franklin [inducted 1987]
  • Solomon Burke [inducted 2001]
  • Blind Boys of Alabama
  • Michelle Williams
  • Cissy Houston
  • Morning Star Baptist Church Mass Choir with Reverend Earl Preston
  • Taj Mahal
  • The Manhattans
  • Otis Clay
  • The Dixie Hummingbirds
  • Lou Rawls
  • New Spirit Revival Praise Team with Drs. Darryl and Belinda Scott


Tribute Concert Performers at the State Theatre

Saturday, November 5 at 8:00pm


Wilbert's Performers

The night before the Tribute Concert, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings with special guest William Bell performed at Wilbert's in Cleveland. 

Conference at Case Western Reserve University

On Saturday, November 5 from 9am until 5pm at the Ford Auditorium in the Allen Memorial Medical Library, scholars, artists, journalists and fans gathered at a conference to reflect on the career of Sam Cooke and his impact on rock and roll music.  Participants included Sam's brother L.C. Cooke, Marvin Jones, Lee Richards and Creadell Copeland of the Highway QCs, Early Byrd, Gorgeous George, andGrady Gaines of the Upsetters, Peter Guralnick, LeRoy Crume of the Soul Stirrers and Ira Tucker of the Dixie Hummingbirds, William Bell and Otis Clay.  Interviewers and moderators included Warren Zanes, Dred-Scott Keyes, and Joyce Jackson.

Panel Discussion: Sam Cooke from Every Angle

On Thursday, November 3 at the Harkness Chapel at Case Western Reserve University, Rock Hall staff (Howard Kramer and Warren Zanes), Case faculty (Mary Davis and Daniel Goldmark), and WCPN Ideastream reporter and producer David C. Barnett discussed Sam Cooke from every angle.

Gospel Master Class with Horace Boyer

Distinguished Professor of Music Theory and African-American Music Horace Boyer at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst lead a gospel master class on Wednesday, November 2 on the musical career of Roy Orbison

Art Gallery at Trinity Cathedral

In collaboration with Cleveland State University, the Rock Hall presented Nearer My God to Thee! A Tribute to Cleveland's Quartet Singers on Tuesday, November 1.

Film Screening: Sam Cooke: Legend (2003)

On Monday, October 31, the Rock Hall screened the Grammy-winning documentary, Sam Cooke: Legend.

Selected Song List

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Additional Resources

Nobody sound like Sam Cooke. I mean, nobody. He hit every note where it was supposed to be. And not only hit the note, but hit the note with feeling. He was the one and only.
- Ray Charles