8 Things that you may not know about Sam Cooke
1) Born Samuel Cook, Cooke changed his name to Sam Cooke supposedly out of superstition. He wanted a stage name with an even amount of letters.
2) In 1963, Cooke’s 18 month-old son, Vincent, drowned in a pool after wandering away from Cooke’s wife’s supervision.
3) He founded his own label, SAR Records, which released albums by the latter day Soul Stirrers, Billy Preston, Mel Carter, and Johnnie Taylor and many others.
4) He befriended Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Malcolm X.
5) A change is gonna come was reportedly inspired by a Bob Dylan song. Dylan’s « Blowin’ in the Wind » was the inspiration for Cooke’s Civil Rights Movement anthem. Another reported inspiration for the song was Cooke’s experience at a white’s-only hotel where he was refused service. Sadly, he died less than two weeks before it was released.
6) Sam Cooke was shot and killed by a motel manager who was found guilty of justifiable homicide. Cooke was only 33 years old when he died of a gunshot wound following an altercation with two women in the Hacienda Motel in L.A. Cooke’s last words were allegedly, and understandably, “Lady, you shot me.” Then, while Cooke was still alive but bleeding from a gunshot wound to the heart, Franklin beat him with a broomstick.
7) It is fairly well known that protege, Bobby Womack, married Cooke’s widow, Barbara, just three months after his death, and that Cooke’s daughter, Linda, later married Bobby’s brother, Cecil Womack. But there is more to the story. Cooke’s family was livid when Bobby and Barbara married. So much so that three of the Cooke brothers met the couple in a Chicago hotel and beat Womack senseless. Also, according to Womack’s autobiography, Midnight Mover, he would sneak out of his bedroom at night, to carry on a tryst with step-daughter, Linda. When Barbara found out, she held a gun to his head, ordering him out of the house. As he ran toward the garage, she fired one shot, grazing Bobby’s scalp. This was the cause of their divorce. Linda went on to marry Cecil, often working musically with Bobby as well, although she never spoke to her mother again. Such is part of Cooke’s tragic legacy.
8) Cooke has received a great many posthumous honors. In 1986, he was among the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2013. In 1994, he was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Rolling Stone Magazine has listed him on both their “100 Greatest Artists of All Time,” and “Greatest Singers of All Time,” lists.