Samuel Cooke contributed much to American music and the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
But his life was tragically cut short, just like another great soul artist of Sam’s generation who left this world too young, Otis Redding.
Performing as Sam Cooke, he was nicknamed the “King of Soul,” Sam composed and recorded hit songs that remain timeless and wedding-worthy.
Sam Cooke also influenced many artists still with us, including Stevie Wonder.
Here are the ten sweetest Sam Cooke wedding songs for your big-day playlist!
This Sam Cooke classic was composed by a songwriting team, but Sam revised the lyrics, and his recording of this song became one of his biggest hit singles.
When to play: I imagine “Wonderful World” playing as a ceremony recessional at a beach wedding or as a fun first dance at a casual wedding reception. But if you’re planning a more formal event and want a piece of soul music perfection, you can’t go wrong with “Wonderful World!”
You Send Me
The “King of Soul” wrote and recorded “You Send Me” way back in 1957… it was a massively popular #1 hit for Sam Cooke, and your grandparents might have had this beautiful song playing at their wedding.
While the vibe here is retro, it doesn’t mean “You Send Me” is any less playable now. On the contrary, it’s still ranked as one of the 500 greatest songs of all time!
When to play: I’ve heard this playing as a bridal party entrance song, and it’s gorgeous. I highly recommend this song for a multi-generational dance number too.
His production team asked Sam Cooke to write a love song for a girl singer, but after they heard Sam’s song “Cupid,” they kept the tune for him to record. It worked, becoming another hit for the “King of Soul!”
When to play: “Cupid” is about a guy longing for his lady love, so more of a fun dance number for your reception playlist. Little kids also seem to love this tune—get some pictures and videos of them dancing to “Cupid” during your reception as an adorable keepsake!
Twistin’ the Night Away
Sam Cooke wrote this song, recorded it, and released it in 1962.
While it definitely sounds like the 1960s, that doesn’t take away from the toe-tapping fun of including this one on your reception playlist. You’ll probably be impressed by the dance moves from the “older folks!”
When to play: Check out this excellent cover by a UK wedding band for added inspo on how to twist your reception party into high gear!
A Change Is Gonna Come
“A Change Is Gonna Come” is so culturally and historically significant that the Library of Congress selected the song for preservation, and Sam wrote and recorded this brilliant song!
While it’s based on racial discrimination that Sam felt every day of his life more than a half-century ago, the message of “A Change Is Gonna Come” remains just as vital today.
When to play: the lyrics behind “A Change Is Gonna Come” might seem heavy, but I’d love to hear it played at a celebration of inclusive and diverse love. It’s also a gorgeous instrumental piece for your wedding ceremony—check out this version for proof.
Nothing Can Change This Love
It took two recording sessions to get “Nothing Can Change This Love” right for Sam Cooke, and the second time, he went into the recording studio after midnight, mere hours before he went on tour again.
“Nothing Can Change This Love” was another big hit for Sam, and I can still hear why it’s so popular.
When to play: “Nothing Can Change This Love” is a beautiful song for swaying at your reception. Check out this piano and vocal cover by Jac Ross… it’s gorgeous first dance inspo!
Bring It On Home To Me
This was one of Sam Cooke’s biggest hits on the pop charts, and “Bring It On Home To Me” has been covered by artists in practically every genre.
You may also have heard the song as the musical backdrop in a commercial or on movie soundtracks like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
When to play: “Bring It On Home To Me” is another fun reception dance number, and check out this video showing a cool cover band putting their spin on it.
Having a Party
I love the backstory about how “Having a Party” got recorded and became a staple at Sam Cooke’s concerts.
The engineer in the recording studio recalled it as a “very happy session,” and “Having a Party” became the last song or encore at Sam’s concerts. The backstage crew threw confetti onstage while Sam got the crowd partying!
When to play: “Having a Party” is a great retro number for your bridal party entrance to the reception!
Sam recorded different versions of “Summertime” from the musical Porgy and Bess. He puts a far more unique spin on his 1957 cover of “Summertime,” and it’s a faster-tempo cover of the song.
When to play: “Summertime” is ideal for an outdoor summery wedding reception, especially Sam’s 1957 cover mentioned above.
For Sentimental Reasons
Another incomparable singer-entertainer, Nat King Cole, recorded “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons” and released the bestselling song in 1946. Sam recorded his version of “For Sentimental Reasons” in 1957, and I love the soul music feel Sam puts on a classic love song!
When to play: this sounds great as your wedding ceremony recessional or a multi-generational dance at your reception.