Chain Gang (song)

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"Chain Gang"
Single by Sam Cooke
from the album Swing Low
B-side "I Fall In Love Every Day"
Released July 26, 1960
Format 7" single
Recorded January 25, 1960
RCA Studio A
(New York City)
Genre Rhythm and blues, soul
Length 2:34
Label RCA Victor 7783
Writer(s) Sam Cooke
Producer(s) Hugo & Luigi
Sam Cooke singles chronology
"You Understand Me"
(1960)
"Chain Gang"
(1960)
"Sad Mood"
(1960)

"Chain Gang" is a song by American singer-songwriter Sam Cooke, released on July 26, 1960. The song became one of Cooke's most successful singles, peaking at number two on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot R&B Sides chart; it also charted at number seven on the UK Singles Chart.

This was Cooke's second-biggest American hit, his first single for RCA Victor after leaving Keen Records earlier in 1959, and was also his first top 10 hit since "You Send Me" from 1957, and his second-biggest Pop single. The song was inspired after a chance meeting with an actual chain-gang of prisoners on a highway, seen while Sam was on tour. According to legend, Cooke and his brother Charles felt sorry for the men and gave them several cartons of cigarettes. Cooke was reportedly unsatisfied with the initial recording sessions of this song at RCA Studios in New York in January 1960, and came back three months later to redo some of the vocals to get the effect he wanted.

Five months later, Ty Hunter & The Voice Masters tried an Answer Song, "Free", but it missed making the Top 100. The songwriting credits are sometimes erroneously attributed to Sol Quasha & Herb Yakus, who wrote a different song with the same title that was recorded by Bobby Scott and made the Top 20 in 1956.

Covers[edit]

In 1968, the song was remade by the duo of Jackie Wilson and Count Basie. Released on the Brunswick label, this version became a top forty R&B hit and a minor Billboard Hot 100 hit.

Other notable artists who have recorded versions of this song include King Curtis, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, The Supremes, Otis Redding, Lou Rawls, and Bobby Tench in 1982 (Line Records LS1081), The Nylons.

Theola Kilgore recorded a version with slightly re-written lyrics entitled "The Sound of My Man", in which the singer's husband is working in the chain gang.

Brazilian soul - R&B singer and songwriter Tim Maia also recorded in "What a Wonderful World" album, in 1996. The reggae band The Congos play Chain Gang in "Back to the Black Ark" released in 2009, which also yielded a video clip featuring the musicians.

A song related in title only was previously a Billboard Top 20 hit by Bobby Scott in 1956 (ABC-Paramount 9658).

The Pretenders' 1982 song, "Back on the Chain Gang" contains some references to the song including using a similar chain-gang "chant."

Showaddywaddy also made a cover, which appears on their album Step Two.

The Band covered the song during their 1995 sessions for the album High on the Hog, featuring Rick Danko on lead vocals, and it was mentioned in the initial press release for the album, only to be omitted from the final release.[1] It was later restored as a bonus track on the 2006 remaster.[2]

Jim Croce medley[edit]

"Chain Gang Medley: Chain Gang/He Don't Love You/Searchin"
Single by Jim Croce
from the album Down the Highway
B-side Stone Walls
Released December 1975[3]
Format 7" 45 RPM
Genre Folk rock
Length 4:37
Label Lifesong
Writer(s) Sam Cooke, Charles Cook, Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield, Calvin Carter, Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller
Producer(s) Terry Cashman, Tommy West
Jim Croce singles chronology
"Workin' at the Car Wash Blues"
(1974)
"Chain Gang Medley"
(1975)
"Mississippi Lady"
(1976)

Jim Croce had his last Hot 100 hit in 1976 when Lifesong Records released "Chain Gang Medley," a medley which included this song as well as "He Don't Love You (Like I Love You)" and "Searchin'." The medley reached a peak of 63 on the Billboard Hot 100 after spending 9 weeks on the chart.

Chart (1975–1976) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 63
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary 22[4]
U.S. Cash Box Top 100 56[5]
Canadian RPM Top Singles 29[6]
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary 20[7]

In popular media[edit]

In the Full House episode "A Pox In Our House", Jesse, Joey, and Stephanie are singing the song together as they deal with chicken pox.

In 1990 the song was included in the soundtrack of the movie Cadence starring Charlie Sheen.

The song was sampled by Animal Collective member Panda Bear in his song "Laughed for a World Filled with Fantasy", which was played during a live radio performance in 2007.

In the Magnum P.I. episode "Operation Silent Night", T.C. sings the chorus of the song while he is repairing the helicopter.

The song appears in the video game DJ Hero 2.

References[edit]