Sam Cooke Death
Many fans believe Sam Cooke's death occurred under mysterious circumstances. Sam was 33 years old and at the top of his career when a bullet ended his life. Cooke was a crossover artist who from 1957 to 1964 alone had sold over 10 million records. The handsome velvet-voiced crooner had a string of hits such as "You Send Me," "Chain Gang," "Cupid" and several more over seven short years.
The early years. Sam Cooke was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1931, the fifth of eight siblings. The family soon relocated to Chicago where Sam and his siblings (ages four to thirteen) began singing in church. By the late 1930s the siblings were doing 50-cent-per-seat shows on the weekends. In 1950 Sam got his big break when he was hired after auditioning for an open spot with the Soul Stirrers. In 1956 Cooke recorded his first single, "Lovable" under the name Dale Cooke so as not to offend his Gospel roots. In December 1957 Sam Cooke appeared on the "Ed Sullivan Show" to perform "You Send Me" and a star was born.
December 1964: The death of a star. Sam arrived at the Hacienda Hotel in South Central Los Angeles with Elisa Boyer (with whom he had met earlier in the evening at a Hollywood bar). Shortly after signing in and entering their room, Boyer ran from the room with her clothes and most of Cooke's. Sam ran to the hotel manager (Bertha Franklin's) office wearing his sports jacket and shoes. He eventually ended up in the office where he was shot once and beat with a broom handle by Franklin. Sam Cooke died in the hotel office from the gunshot wound.
The investigation and trial. Elisa Boyer testified that she ran from the hotel room for fear of being raped by Cooke. She called the police from a phone booth a block from the hotel to report her having been kidnapped by Sam Cooke. Boyer's call came six minutes before the hotel owner Evelyn Carr (who was on the phone with Bertha Franklin, the hotel manager when Cooke allegedly forced his way into the office) called the police to report the shooting. Bertha Franklin testified that she shot Cooke (who was drunk) in self-defense after he broke down the office door, grabbed her and demanded to know where Elisa Boyer was. Both Franklin and Boyer passed polygraph tests and Sam Cooke's death was ruled justifiable.