Chain Gang (song)

"Chain Gang" is a song by the American singer-songwriter Sam Cooke, released on July 26, 1960.

"Chain Gang"
Chain Gang Cooke.jpg
Single by Sam Cooke
from the album Swing Low
B-side"I Fall in Love Every Day"
ReleasedJuly 26, 1960
RecordedJanuary 25, 1960
RCA Studio A
(New York City)
GenreRhythm and blues, soul
LabelRCA Victor
Songwriter(s)Sam Cooke, Charles Cook Jr.[1]
Producer(s)Hugo & Luigi
Sam Cooke singles chronology
"You Understand Me"
"Chain Gang"
"Sad Mood"


This was Cooke's second-biggest American hit, his first hit 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 Cooke was on tour.[2]

Cooke was reportedly unsatisfied with the initial recording sessions of this song at RCA Studios in Manhattan in January 1960, and came back three months later to redo some of the vocals to get the effect he wanted.[citation needed]

Chart historyEdit

The song became one of Cooke's most successful singles, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, behind both "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own" by Connie Francis and "Mr. Custer" by Larry Verne[3] On the Hot R&B Sides chart, the song peaked at number two as well.[4] Overseas, "Chain Gang" charted at number nine on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Cooke's first top-ten single there.[5]

Chart (1960) Peak
U.K. Singles Chart 9
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 2
U.S. Billboard Hot R&B Sides 2

Jim Croce medleyEdit

"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"
ReleasedDecember 1975[6]
GenreFolk rock
Songwriter(s)Sam Cooke, Charles Cook, Jr., 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"
"Chain Gang Medley: Chain Gang/He Don't Love You/Searchin"
"Mississippi Lady"

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
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[7] 63
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary 22[8]
U.S. Cash Box Top 100 56[9]
Canadian RPM Top Singles 29[10]
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary 20[11]


  1. ^ "". Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  2. ^ Kreps, Daniel; Stone, Rolling (May 12, 2014). "Between the Bars: 20 Great Songs About Prison". Rolling Stone.
  3. ^ "Top 100 Songs | Billboard Hot 100 Chart". Billboard. October 3, 1960. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 134.
  5. ^ "SAM COOKE | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Official Charts.
  6. ^ Strong, Martin Charles & John Peel Great Rock Discography
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles, 14th Edition: 1955-2012. Record Research. p. 203.
  8. ^ "Chain Gang Medley (song by Jim Croce) ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  9. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 2/07/76". Archived from the original on December 13, 2010.
  10. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 24, No. 21, February 21 1976". Archived from the original on October 21, 2012. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  11. ^ "Adult Contemporary – Volume 24, No. 20, February 14 1976". Archived from the original on October 21, 2012. Retrieved March 15, 2018.