Only Sixteen

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"Only Sixteen"
Single by Sam Cooke
B-side "Let's Go Steady Again"
Released May 1959
Format 7"
Recorded January 4, 1959
Rex Productions
(Los Angeles, California)
Genre Rhythm and blues, soul
Length 2:00
Label Keen
Writer(s) Sam Cooke
Producer(s) Bumps Blackwell
Sam Cooke singles chronology
"Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha"
"Only Sixteen"

"Only Sixteen" is a song whose origin is still in dispute. singer-songwriter Sam Cooke, recorded it in the U.S. in May 1959 but the British singer Al Saxon had also been singing the song in England at the same time - possibly before Sam Cooke. Al Saxon had previously released an earlier version of a similar song "When You Were Sweet Sixteen" in the 1940s, by Al Saxon and His Big Band of the 40s. Nonetheless, Only Sixteen was a top 15 hit for Cooke on Billboard '​s Hot R&B Sides chart, and also charted within the top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100.


Sam Cooke claimed that "Only Sixteen" was inspired by the sixteenth birthday of Lou Rawls' stepsister, Eunice.[1] The song was originally intended for actor Steve Rowland, who often hung around the Keen studio. Rowland asked Cooke to write a song for him, and Cooke borrowed the bridge from an earlier song of his, "Little Things You Do". Rowland's manager disliked the song, and Cooke re-recorded it for himself.[1][2]

Craig Douglas covered the song, also in 1959. The Supremes covered it on their 1965 album We Remember Sam Cooke, and Dr. Hook covered it in 1976.


Credits adapted from the liner notes to the 2003 compilation Portrait of a Legend: 1951–1964.[1]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1959) Peak
UK Singles Chart[3] 23
US Billboard Hot 100[4] 28
US Hot R&B Sides (Billboard)[4] 13


  1. ^ a b c Portrait of a Legend: 1951–1964 (liner notes). Sam Cooke. US: ABKCO Records. 2003. 92642. 
  2. ^ Guralnick, Peter (2005). Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke. New York: Back Bay Books, p. 280-81. First edition, 2005.
  3. ^ "Sam Cooke - Artist - Official Charts". Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 28, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Sam Cooke – Awards". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved February 28, 2014. 

External links[edit]