Samuel Cook (January 22, 1931 – December 11, 1964), better known under the stage name Sam Cooke, was an American gospel, R&B, soul, and pop singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur. He is considered to be one of the pioneers and founders of soul music. He is commonly known as the King of Soul for his distinctive vocal abilities and influence on the modern world of music. His contribution in pioneering soul music led to the rise of Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and popularized the likes of Otis Redding and James Brown.
Cooke had 30 U.S. top 40 hits between 1957 and 1964, and a further three after his death. Major hits like "You Send Me", "A Change Is Gonna Come", "Cupid", "Chain Gang", "Wonderful World", and "Twistin' the Night Away" are some of his most popular songs. Cooke was also among the first modern black performers and composers to attend to the business side of his musical career. He founded both a record label and a publishing company as an extension of his careers as a singer and composer. He also took an active part in the American Civil Rights Movement.
On December 11, 1964, Cooke was fatally shot by the manager of the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 33. At the time, the courts ruled that Cooke was drunk and distressed, and that the manager had killed Cooke in what was later ruled a justifiable homicide. Since that time, the circumstances of his death have been widely questioned.