His transition from gospel to secular pop complete, Sam Cooke penned one of pop/soul music's earliest, smoothest, and most influential songs, "You Send Me." Already a star in the gospel world as a member of the legendary Soul Stirrers, Cooke hit it big in 1957 on this, his first single under his own name (his first pop song, "Lovable," was released under a pseudonym) -- a number one smash for Keen Records, selling roughly two million copies. Though he had been released from his Soul Stirrers contract with Specialty Records, the company nevertheless filed a lawsuit for royalties, claiming that the newly crowned superstar singer wrote and recorded the song while still under the company's contract. Cooke defended himself by claiming that the song was written by his brother, Charles L.C. Cooke.
"You Send Me" skips along with the weightless, light touch of Nat King Cole, a giddy tune that captures the feeling of falling in love, with a breezy tune, a jazzy beat, and a few simple verses (really just one verse repeated) that recount the chain of events that lead to the smitten narrator's crush: "I thought it was infatuation/But, oh, it's lasted so long/That now I find myself wanting to marry you/And take you home." But the arrangement is really almost all variations on the chorus: "Darling, you send (thrill) (move) me," with a drawn-out "you-ooo." Cooke's voice was already well-known to fans of his gospel recordings, but "You Send Me" established his sweet, slightly hoarse voice and swinging style for the mass pop audience. Accompanied by a soft-strummed guitar (which also plays a hook line in between the verses), a wall of backup female vocal harmonies, upright bass, and brushed drums, the smooth pop style had a great influence on many soul crooners to follow, including those identified primarily with the Southern strain of the music, but perhaps more directly on the Northern/urban Motown variety of R&B and soul. The song has become a soul standard with covers from Aretha Franklin and Sam and Dave, among many more.