Cooke was born to a preacher in Clarksdale, Mississippi on January 22, 1931. To make ends meet, his father Charles worked the fields and cared for the home of a cotton farmer. But he wanted a better life for his children. He would teach them never to accept the limitations set on them, from outside or within. That lesson began in 1934, when they boarded a Greyhound bus and moved north to Chicago.
Cooke was singing gospel professionally by the age of ten. He performed with his brothers and sisters in a group called The Singing Children. For practice, he would stick Popsicle sticks in the ground and perform for them. He earned money singing with his brother L.C. on the corner of 35th and Cottage Grove — the end of the streetcar line in their Bronzeville neighborhood.
Just a few months after the release of "You Send Me" Cooke appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. The show's producers received many complaints after cutting his performance short, and he was asked back the following week. With the success of this performance and his first single, he began to tour the country.
In May of 1963, Cooke heard Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind" and was overwhelmed. He couldn't believe it wasn't written by a black man, and he couldn't believe it wasn't written by him. That same month, Cooke spent a great deal of time talking with students at sit-ins in North Carolina. He was inspired by what he heard.
This feature is supported in part by a Community News Matters grant from The Chicago Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
— Brian Leli
Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block.
Editor: Anne Holub, email@example.com
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