Jan. 22, 1931-Dec. 11, 1964
December. Bad month for rock deaths. Rock homicides even more so. Sam Cooke was one of them. Immensely talented and good-looking, Sam Cooke defined the term "Soul" singer.
He made his bones in the gospel group The Soul Stirrers before crossing over to pop/soul music when he had 29 Top 40 hits from 1957 to 1964. "You Send Me", "Wonderful World", "Chain Gang", "Bring it on Home to Me" and my personal favorite "A Change is Gonna Come" were huge hits that brought gospel tinged soul music to a wide and white audience. Sam Cooke paved the road for the Bobby "Blue" Blands and the Sam and Dave's that followed.
Sam Cooke met his end in a seedy motel in Los Angeles when Sam showed up in the manager's office drunk, distressed and clad only in a sport coat and shoes. The angry Cooke was looking for the woman he had brought to the motel. You knew there had to be a woman involved, didn't you? The manager, Bertha Franklin, denied seeing the woman. Sam became even more enraged and long story short, Bertha pulls a pistol, bang...bang, and the premier R&B performer of his day is dead on the floor. A subsequent (and controversial) inquest follows with a verdict of self-defense.
And with that the man becomes the legend.
Unfortunately, there is no live footage of this song, since it was released posthumously. But, damn, listen to it. Makes the hair stand up on your arms.
Ladies and Gentleman...
Mr. Sam Cooke
Update: Say Hey DK has provided a link to a good crime scene photo of Sam Cooke. Here it is for those so inclined.