which we marked just yesterday), Gram Parsons and John Lennon (though he was years older), not to mention Kurt Cobain, among others.
Sam is a personal favorite, thanks partly to his enormously influential recordings with the Soul Stirrers--the greatest gospel (or maybe any other kind of) male singing in this half of the century. Sam was also a groundbreaking black businessman--starting his own label, unheard of at the time!--and increasingly political at the time of his death, hanging out with great friend Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown, among others, recording "Blowin' in the Wind." On top of all that you have the fact that he merely wrote, and recorded, perhaps the greatest song of our era, "A Change Is Gonna Come." And was captured in two of the greatest live vocal performances ever, with the Soul Stirrers at the Shrine Aud in the early 1950s and in the Harlem Club in Miami in the early 1960s. Other than that: not much.
The fact that he died rather sordidly--a far cry from his suave image--we will pass over for now. Here is part one of a cool documentary (and here's part II), and the two classic live cuts, from the sacred to the profane. Women fainted in each case.