Sam Cooke Death Photos Biography
Sam Cooke was born in Chicago, Illinois. He was one of eight children of Charles Cook Sr., a Baptist minister. When Sam sang as a little boy in church, everyone made note that his voice had "something special". He sang in church and in local gospel choirs until a group called the Highway Q.C.'s asked him to sing with them at various venues. By the time he reached 20, Sam's voice was a finely honed instrument and he was noted for bringing the spirit up in churchgoers.
When Sam replaced R.H. Harris, the legendary lead singer for the extremely popular gospel group The Soul Stirrers, it was the beginning of his meteoric rise. Cooke sang with the group for six years, traveling back and forth across the country and gaining a wealth of knowledge regarding how black people were treated. His refusal to sing at a segregated concert led to what many have described as one of the first real efforts in civil disobedience and helped usher in the new Civil Rights Movement.
After several gospel albums, Sam decided it was time to cross over from gospel (against almost everyone's advice) to record some soul and rhythm & blues. His hypnotically smooth voice, not to mention his finely chiseled good looks, brought him almost instant success. His first single released in 1957 was "You Send Me", which sold over a million copies and made Sam an "overnight success" in the business. He was on his way to becoming the biggest voice on the radio. Record producers vied to sign him to a contract. In 1960 he became the first major black artist to sign with RCA Records. Sam was not happy with the deal and when the time was right decided to start his own publishing company (KAGS Music) to keep control over his music and his own record company (SAR/Derby) to keep control of his money.
Sam married his high school sweetheart, Barbara Campbell, in 1959 and they had three children. Tragically, their youngest child, Vincent, drowned in their swimming pool at age four in June 1964.
On the night of December 11, 1964, Sam had withdrawn some money to buy Christmas presents. The manager of the motel he was staying in, Bertha Franklin, who had shot and killed a man six months previously at the same motel, made arrangements with a local prostitute named Elisa Boyer to pick up Sam at a local bar and bring him back to the motel. As he and the woman entered the motel room Sam was struck on the head and momentarily knocked out. Boyer, who was known as a "drunk roller" who would rob her clients, took Sam's money and met Franklin at the motel office.
When Cooke regained consciousness he was disoriented, in addition to being without his pants and his wallet. He stumbled to the motel office and saw Boyer and Franklin counting his money ($2,500 - a considerable amount of money at the time) through the window. He demanded his pants, money and wallet back. When they didn't open the door, Cooke knocked on it as hard as he could and it came off the hinges. When he got up off the floor Mrs. Franklin shot him and then instructed Boyer to run down the street and call police from a phone booth. Boyer told them a phony story about a rape and left the scene and subsequently disappeared. Sam was dead when the police arrived and, since Boyer had stolen his wallet, they had no idea who it was and took it as a routine justified homicide in the ghetto.
The coroner's inquest should have been a slam-dunk, but not one pertinent question was asked by an investigator, now was a background check made that would have revealed Bertha Franklin's deadly past. The authorities simply took her made-up story as "gospel". Sam's murder was chalked up as just another unidentified "rapist" killed in Watts. It wasn't until the following Monday morning that a reporter found out Sam Cooke was signed in to the motel registry as himself and that one of the world's greatest talents and a true human being was dead, under shady circumstances that might never be covered by the media, since it's been 45 years.
Sam Cooke was born in Chicago, Illinois on January 22, 1931. He was one of seven children of Charles Cooke Sr., who was a Baptist minister. When Sam sang as a little boy in church, everyone made note that his voice had "something special." He sang in his father's church until joining a group called the Highway Q.C.'s in his sophomore year in high school.
When Sam replaced R.H. Harris, the legendary lead singer for the extremely popular gospel group called The Soul Stirrers, it was the beginning of Sam's meteoric rise. Cooke sang with the group for six years, traveling back and forth across the country and gained a wealth of knowledge regarding how black people were treated. His refusal to sing at a segregated concert led to what many have described as one of the first real efforts in civil disobedience and helped usher in the new Civil Rights Movement.
After becoming one of the most recognized names in gospel, Sam decided to crossover from gospel to the more lucrative world of popular music. Because of his good looks and intonation, he was an instant success. His first single released in 1957 was "You Send Me" and sold over 1.7 million copies, and made Sam an "overnight success." Considered the very first Soul single, "You Send Me" combined Cooke's gospel background with rhythm and blues.
Having already established his own publishing company (KAGS Music) and record label (SAR/Derby), Cooke signed an unprecedented record deal with RCA in January of 1960. The deal allowed Cooke to retain his songwriter's royalties, a financially lucrative move since he had written most of his best-selling material.
Sam married his high school sweetheart, Barbara Campbell, in 1959 and had they had three children. Tragically, Vincent their youngest, drowned in their swimming pool at age four in June 1964.
According to the "official version" of events, Cooke ran into Elisa Boyer at Martoni's restaurant on the evening of December 10, 1964. After making a stop at a nightclub called PJ's, the two continued on to the Hacienda Motel in El Segundo, California on the early morning of December 11, 1964.
Cooke supposedly dragged Ms. Boyer into the room and proceeded to undress her against her will. She escaped while Cooke was in the bathroom, scooping up her clothes in addition to some of Cooke's, and an estimated $5000 of his money. Cooke, half-dressed, was said to have gone to the motel manager's office and knocked violently at the door, provoking Bertha Franklin to shoot him in self-defense.
There were several questionable factors surrounding Sam Cooke's death, including shoddy investigation by the Los Angeles Police Dept., several unasked and unanswered questions in the coroner's inquest, and the questionable background of Boyer and Franklin themselves. Boyer, for example, was a well-known prostitute in Hollywood (begging the question why would she say she was in a motel against her will?), and was said to have routinely run robbery scams with Franklin - an ex-prostitute herself. It has long been the theory that Sam Cooke was taken to the Hacienda against his will, and that Boyer and Franklin were pawns in the cover-up.
Sam Cooke was becoming a powerful figure not just on the music scene, but on the business side of the industry as well. His refusal to succumb to outside influences had become career-threatening, and behind-the-scene factors concerning his death have been written about extensively in a biography from his family's perspective.