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Biography

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Overview (5)

Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, USA
Died in Los Angeles, California, USA  (gunshot)
Birth NameSamuel Cook
Nicknames Dale Cook
The King of Soul
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Sam Cooke was born January 22, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. 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On the night of December 11, 1964, Sam had withdrawn some money to buy Christmas presents.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, nor 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 have been covered by the media.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: D. G. Balazs

Spouse (2)

Barbara Campbell (9 October 1959 - 11 December 1964) ( his death) ( 3 children)
Dolores Mohawk (19 October 1953 - 15 November 1957) ( divorced)

Trivia (20)

His song, "Somewhere There's a Girl" was written in honor of his first wife, Dolores Mohawk, after she had been killed in a car crash.
He screen-tested for a role in the period drama The Cincinnati Kid (1965).
He added the "e" to his last name to signify a new start to his life (1957).
He was the fifth of eight children of the Reverend Charles Cook and Anna Mae Cook.
Attended and graduated from Wendell Phillips High School in Chicago, Illinois (1948).
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1986) (as a charter member) and the American Songwriters Hall of Fame (1987).
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as a member of The Soul Stirrers) (under the category Early Influences) (1989).
Was voted the 16th Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Artist of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.
Was voted the fourth greatest singer of the rock era in a Rolling Stone magazine poll (2008).
He was a huge influence on other R&B and rock 'n roll singers. Among others, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye considered him a favorite.
His song "A Change is Gonna Come", drastically different from most of his other work, was penned by Cooke after he was moved by Bob Dylan's song "Blowin' in the Wind". This indicated Cooke may have started to make darker, more socially-conscious work if he had lived.
Father of Linda M. Womack. Uncle of R.B. Greaves.
Posthumously inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame at Cleveland State University (2013).
Following his untimely death, he was interred in the Garden of Honor at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
Released his first popular single "Lovable" (1956) under the name of Dale Cooke. At the time, there were negative feelings in the gospel singing community about popular music.
He was posthumously awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 7051 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 1, 1994.
Brother of L.C. Cooke, Charles Cooke and Agnes Hoskins. Cousin of Stan Shaw.
First recorded secular songs as Dale Cook on Specialty Records (1956).
Mentioned in the 1974 song "Life Is a Rock but the Radio Rolled Me" by Reunion.
Lead singer of the gospel group The Soul Stirrers from 1950-56.

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