The Story Of Sam Cooke's Tragic Death

Sam Cooke is often referred to as the father of soul music, as explained by Biography. He started by singing gospel music as a child — other singers, like Aretha Franklin and Patti LaBelle, got their first taste of musical performance the same way. He was born in Mississippi but grew up in Chicago, and in his teens formed a vocal quintet. Shortly after graduating from high school he joined The Soul Stirrers, a gospel music group, where he stayed for six years, sharpening his gifts. The year 1957 saw his first hit recording, "You Send Me," which knocked Elvis's "Jailhouse Rock" out of the Number One spot on the charts. Besides singing and songwriting, Cooke had the foresight to control the rights to his music — uncommon in those days — and founding his own record label, signing such artists as Billy Preston. More hits followed, in a variety of styles, all showcasing his remarkably pure voice and unique stylistic touches.

Captain Cooke

Cooke gave us such standards as "Another Saturday Night," "Wonderful World," and "Twistin' the Night Away." And then in the space of a single evening, it all went south with a series of events that are questioned to this day. As told by Performing Songwriter, in the later hours of December 10, 1964, Cooke was out for a few drinks in Los Angeles when he met Elisa Boyer. They ended up at a motel; one theory suggests that she was a sex worker Cooke had hired. An altercation broke out between them, with Boyer claiming Cooke tried to rape her before she escaped. Cooke went to the motel's office, breaking down the closed door, where he had an argument with Bertha Franklin, the manager. The manager claimed self-defense when she shot and killed Cooke. A jury ruled justifiable homicide. For her part, Boyer would be convicted in 1979 of second degree murder in the death of a boyfriend.