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American Masters: Sam Cooke: Crossing Over

Airs Monday, January 11, 2010 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Sam Cooke (foreground) put the spirit of the black church into popular music,...

Credit: ©CBS Broadcasting, Inc./CBS Photo Archive

Above: Sam Cooke (foreground) put the spirit of the black church into popular music, creating a new American sound. Charming and brazen, Cooke had a silky voice and good looks that opened doors. The singer is shown here on stage with Ed Sullivan during an appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” December 1, 1957.

Sam Cooke put the spirit of the Black church into popular music --creating a new sound and setting into motion a chain of events that forever altered the course of popular music and race relations in America. With "You Send Me" in 1957, Cooke became the first African American artist to reach #1 on both the R&B and the pop charts. It was groundbreaking. It was also risky for this young gospel performer to alienate his fans by embracing "the devil's music" -- but he proved, with his pop/gospel hybrid, that it was, indeed, possible to win over white teenage listeners and keep his faithful church followers intact. Watch interviews with the producer and narrator Danny Glover.

American Masters: Sam Cooke: Crossing Over

Watch a preview of "American Masters: Sam Cooke: Crossing Over."

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