I neglected to mention that January 22nd would also have been the birthday of another Golden Era Gospel figure, the Rev. C.L. Franklin. Rev. Franklin was one of the most popular preachers of his day. He was pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, and the father of Aretha Franklin. Rev. Franklin would tour the country and preach in different cities, having groups such as the Roberta Martin Singers or the Clara Ward Singers to minister through song while he would deliver the sermon.
The gospel and r&b powerhouse Samuel Cook (aka: Sam Cooke) would have celebrated his 80th birthday today. One can't help but wonder what would music be like had he lived. Would he have found continued success in the 70s and 80s as his friend Bobby Womack did? Or would he have faded away into obscurity, only to come out for the occasional PBS sponsored oldies concert? We'll never know. However, we can say for certain that his legacy lives on today. "You Send Me", "Nearer My God to Thee", "Wonderful", and "A Change Is Gonna Come" are recordings which are still celebrated today. On modern radio, you'll hear r&b crooners and gospel singers sneak a Sam Cooke inspired run (sometimes unfortunately "enhanced" by autotune) into their songs. That alone is proof that Sam's influence is still resonating today.