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Sam Cooke: Crossing Over

series: American Masters

air date: 2/19/13 10:00 PM

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.

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