For the month of February, in celebration of Black History Month on XPN, we’re presenting a new series called Black Inspirations. We’ve asked contemporary Black artists to share some of their influences from the Black music vanguard. The series continues today with a testimonial from Candi Staton.

Veteran singer-songwriter Candi Staton has been making music in a variety of genres for over 50 years; for our Black History Month series, she reached a little further back to highlight someone who inspired her when she was starting out: the late great Sam Cooke. Here’s what Staton had to say.

“Sam Cooke was one of my greatest musical influences. Everything about him was cool. He was handsome and dressed cool. When he sang, he sang cool. He made ‘cool’ look effortless. I loved the smoothness in his vocal tone and those little yodels he used to do. Even when he sang hard, he made it sound smooth and cool. That’s a gift.  I tried to pattern myself after his example in my own singing career. I still listen to his music and enjoy it!”

Below, listen to Candi Staton’s favorite Sam Cooke songs, chosen for Black Inspirations on WXPN.