Sam Cooke, one of the greatest soul singers in history, was shot to death on this date in 1964 – at the very height of his career. Circumstances surrounding Cooke’s murder have always been sketchy.
Bertha Franklin, who managed the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles, told police that Cooke entered her motel office in a rage, searching for a woman – Elisa Boyer – that he had taken to his room earlier in the evening. Boyer later claimed she was afraid he was going to rape her, and fled the motel. At that point, an inebriated Cooke barged into the motel office in only his shoes and a sport coat. Franklin said he became violent, so she grabbed her gun and shot him – at least 3 times.
Cooke’s friends and family never accepted the story. They claimed his murder was part of a conspiracy or police cover-up, due to inconsistencies in the various testimonies. Boyer was later arrested on prostitution charges, and many suspect she accompanied Cooke to the motel with plans to rob him. His clothes and a large sum of money were never recovered. Whatever the sad circumstances, the world lost one of its most gifted artists that day. He was only 33.
Here’s a video of Sam’s hauntingly beautiful composition “A Change is Gonna Come.” Released after his death, it’s one of the earliest protest songs of the civil rights movement. Please watch it as a reminder of what life was like in America just a few generations ago. Change has come, but it becomes more apparent every day that we’ve still got a LONG way to go.
© Dana Spiardi, Dec 11, 2013