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The Mysterious Death of Sam Cooke

| December 11, 2016 | 115 Comments

Los Angeles, December 10, 1964, 9 p.m.

Everybody in Martoni’s Italian restaurant had their eye on Sam Cooke. In his Sy Devore suit, the 33-year-old R&B singer cut a dashing figure. With his recent Live at the Copa album climbing the charts, Sam was on the brink of stepping up to the big leagues, a crossover figure on par with Nat King Cole and Sammy Davis, Jr.

He was having dinner with producer Al Schmitt and Schmitt’s wife, Joan. Well-wishers kept stopping by the table, interrupting their conversation. Sam, who’d already had three or four martinis, eventually got pulled away to the bar.

When their orders arrived, Al Schmitt went to get Sam and found him laughing it up with a group of friends and music business associates. Sam was buying, and he flashed a wad of bills, what looked like thousands of dollars. He told Al that he and his wife should go ahead with their meal.

At a booth near the bar, there was a baby-faced 22-year-old Asian girl, sitting with three guys. Sam caught her eye. He’d seen her around. One of the guys, a guitar player Sam knew, introduced them. The girl’s name was Elisa Boyer. Before long, the pair were cozied up in a booth.

They left Martoni’s around 1 a.m. in Sam’s brand new red Ferrari and headed to a nightclub called PJ’s, where they were going to meet the Schmitts. By the time they arrived, the Schmitts were gone. In the club, Sam got into a heated argument with some guy who was hitting on Boyer. She asked Sam to take her home, and they left at 2 a.m.

According to Boyer, Sam raced down Santa Monica, and against her protests, pulled onto the freeway. She later told police that she asked again to be taken home, but Sam said, “Don’t worry now. I just want to go for a little ride.” He stroked her hair and told her how pretty she was.

They exited the highway at Figueroa Street, near LAX. Boyer asked again to be taken home, but Sam drove straight to the Hacienda Motel. He got out of the car and walked up to a glass partition at the manager’s office while Boyer remained in the car. He registered under his own name with the clerk, Bertha Franklin. Franklin eyed Boyer in the car, and told Sam that he’d have to sign in as Mr. and Mrs.

Sam drove around to the back of the motel. Boyer claimed he then dragged her into the room, pinned her on the bed and started to tear her clothes off. “I knew he was going to rape me,” she told the police. She went into the bathroom and tried to lock the door, but the latch was broken. She tried the window but it was painted shut. When she came out, Sam was already undressed. He groped her, then went into the bathroom himself. Boyer, wearing a slip and a bra, picked up her clothes and fled.

Franklin after shooting Cooke

The first thing she said she did was pound on the night manager’s door. Franklin didn’t answer. Boyer ran half a block, dumped her clothes on the ground and got dressed. Tangled among her clothes were Sam’s shirt and pants. She left them on the ground, found a phone booth and called the police.

Meanwhile, Sam, wearing one shoe and a sports jacket, had come out of the room, frantically looking for Boyer. He drove the Ferrari back to the manager’s office, and banged on the door of Franklin’s office. “Is the girl in there?” he yelled. According to Franklin, when she said no, Sam began to work at the locked door and ram it with his shoulder. The frame ripped loose and the latch gave. Sam charged in, looking around for Boyer. He grabbed Franklin’s wrist. “Where is the girl?” They got into a tussle.

Franklin, though shorter than Sam, outweighed him by about 30 pounds. She told the police, “He fell on top of me … I tried to bite him through that jacket: biting, scratching and everything. Finally, I got up, when I kicked him … I run and grabbed the pistol off the TV, and I shot … at close range … three times.”

Two of the bullets missed. But the third entered his left side, passed through his left lung, his heart and his right lung. Sam fell back and in astonishment, said what would be his last words: “Lady, you shot me.”

Franklin claims that he got up again and ran at her. She hit him over the head with a broom handle. This time, he stayed down. When the police arrived, Sam Cooke was dead.

At 6 a.m., Sam’s widow Barbara greeted the news with hysterics, trying to shield their two young children from reporters and fans who were gathering at their house.

Elisa Boyer testifying during the coroner’s inquest, Dec. 16, 1964

Five days later, at the coroner’s inquest, Boyer and Franklin recounted their stories in a hasty proceeding that barely allowed Sam’s lawyer one question. Tests showed that at the time of death, Sam had a blood alcohol level of .16 (.08 is considered too drunk to drive). Sam’s credit cards were missing, but a money clip with $108 was in his jacket pocket. The shooting was ruled “justifiable homicide.” Case closed.

There are many problems here. Let’s start with Elisa Boyer. She testified that she met Sam at a “Hollywood dinner party” and that he sang a song at the party. No mention of Martoni’s or PJ’s. She said she was “kidnapped” by Sam and couldn’t escape because his car was going too fast. Yet when Sam went to the motel window to register, Boyer was left alone in the car. She could’ve escaped or yelled for help. Moreover, if it was Sam’s intention to rape Boyer, why would he have registered under his real name? Boyer said she mistakenly took Sam’s clothes from the room when she grabbed her own. Wouldn’t it make sense that she was merely trying to prevent his pursuit? And what about the wad of cash that she spied earlier in the night? Surely she knew right where it was.

The truth about Boyer came out a month later when she was arrested in Hollywood for prostitution. The Hacienda Motel, which offered $3-per-hour rates, was known as a hangout for hookers. What probably happened is that Sam paid for Boyer’s services, and when he stepped into the bathroom, she ran out with his cash and credit cards. In 1979, Boyer was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of a boyfriend.

Cooke’s body carried out of motel

Bertha Franklin, an ex-madam with her own criminal record, was forced to quit her job after receiving several death threats. She filed a $200,000 lawsuit against Sam Cooke’s estate for punitive damages and injuries, but lost.

As for Barbara Cooke, her husband’s infidelity was nothing new to her. But she also had some action going on the side with a local bartender. On the day of Sam’s funeral, this guy was seen wearing Sam’s watch and his ring. Two months after Sam’s death, Barbara had dumped the bartender and married Sam’s friend and back-up singer Bobby Womack.

For Sam’s part, he was always a womanizer. As his friend Bumps Blackwell once said, “Sam would walk past a good girl to get to a whore.” There were all kinds of theories around his death—a drug deal involving someone close to Sam in which Sam tried to intervene, a Mafia hit, a set-up devised by a jealous Barbara Cooke. Many believed it was a racist plot in the entertainment business. As with any rising star (not to mention one of color in the early 1960s), Sam had made some enemies. As one woman friend of his said, “He was just getting too big for his britches for a suntanned man.”

Was Sam Cooke lured into a trap at the Hacienda Motel? Were Elisa Boyer and Bertha Franklin working in tandem? Was Barbara Cooke involved somehow? Or was it all just a tragic accident? Over the years, various investigators have made noises about reopening the case, but with most of the principle players dead and gone, it seems unlikely it will ever be solved.

—By Bill DeMain

Photos © Bettmann/Corbis

From Performing Songwriter Article “Heaven Only Knows,” Issue 93, May 2006


Category: Best of PS, In Case You Haven't Heard

Comments (115)

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  1. rob samaratri says:

    The world lost a rare once in a lifetime talent when Sam Cooke was taken from us. Chasing sex has been man’s downfall since the beginning of time.

  2. JoJO says:

    It doesn’t make much sense to kill Sam Cooke to gain the rights over his music, when the man was only 33 and worth millions of dollars alive and recording music.

    I don’t know if he tried to seduce that woman, Elisa Boyer, or “hired” her. That’s a big problem if we’re trying to determine if he attempted to rape a woman, or if he was angry at a sex worker stealing from him. But in any case, I don’t think the motel woman planned to do this. Cooke was drunk and in a rage – over something, depending on which version of the story you believe – and Ms. Franklin got scared, and shot him. No big conspiracy here, but a bad situation that got worse, involving alcohol, sex and firearms.

  3. Jay says:

    Sam Cooke did not die because of a woman he died because he would not give up the rights to his music.He was not shot but beat to death.

    • Beatrice L Lindsey says:

      I think you are right Jay. They had this planned all the way!

    • Jason Davis says:

      It’s stupid to think he was killed over rights to music. Why would someone kill the ‘cash-cow’ for rights to music? He’s worth nothing dead. Dumb guy with wrong chick at wrong place… Shouldn’t have been there. If manager had been white this would’ve been BIG mess.

    • Barbara Mccrae says:

      If that be the case, who won rights to his music upon his death? Start there.

      • Chaun says:

        It’s bigger then this. Sam Cooke was on the verge of giving money to both Martin Luther king jr and Malcolm x to further push agendas for the betterment of black. San Cooke was a mark during this time when they would come down from Chicago they were known to carry large amounts of cash. He picked this hooker up on Figueroa aka figahoe. This was a trap they stole his money then double backed and tried to get more

  4. David Mustafaa says:

    I swear Fraklin look like Al Sharpton

  5. Barb Bittinger says:

    I adored sam cooke.may GOD bless him.i hope he has rest only if he wants it.i hope sam is experiencing true joy, fun,euphoria, and contentment.until we meet,pleasant dreams.i do think the case should be reopened to clear sams’reputation.even though it has been many decades,imagine what an autopsy would uncover.i would hate to have his resting place disturbed,but that might be what it takes to clear him.for sam not for anyone else’s sake.

    • I have always felt that sam was set up, and it is even worse that. One of his own kind would be involved in such a heinous act. I say reopen the case and clear his name for his sake and the sake. Of his children.

  6. Victor says:

    This what I think happen. Sam was “trick rolled”. I believe the hotel mgr. and Boyer knew each other because SHE had been to that hotel before and used it as a “base of operations” i.e. she had been there with other “johns”. One must ask the question here WHOSE IDEA was it to go to THAT HOTEL in the first place? Answer: I believe it was HER idea. There is NO evidence of Sam ever having been to that hotel before, HOWEVER there IS evidence of the hotel mgr AND Boyer having some type of association as she is described as an “ex madam” and Boyer as a “prostitute”. I would bet money that those two had met before (when she brought her other “johns” to the Hotel). Further, she mostly likely pulled that same stunton some other john of running out of the room with their clothes when they went to use the bathroom. The police should have sought other persons she may have pulled the same stunt on (it may be difficult however, as guys would be reluctant to come forward and admit they were “trick rolled”). I don’t think there was an “organized plan”. I think SHE saw an opportunity and simply took advantage of it. SHE may have thought (“if I get a chance I’m going get his money. When he went into the bathroom she saw her chance and went for it). Since SHE was familiar with hotel she knew where to run to AND to hide the money. My conclusion, Sam was “trick rolled” pure and simple, and although the hotel mgr and the girl knew each other they did not have a “plan” nor were they working together. It would be great if someone could be found and admit that SHE pulled the same stunt on them. Do you think SHE only did this once??? I don’t think so… anyway, that’s my two cents Sam got trick rolled, pure and simple.

    • Assata says:

      I partially agree with you, I believe the females ‘did’ know one another.

      He ‘was’ trick rolled. A victimless crime (depending on the legalization of prostitution in that jurisdiction.) Let’s face it, in that mulah industry of fame, one can acquire delusions of ‘master’ which can lead to holding large amounts of money, drugs and sex sex sex… which makes you vulnerable to the cloud of reality.

      If he had not been drinking, he could have better examined the situation he put himself into.

    • Leo says:

      Yep. Tragically Trick-Rolled.

      Sad – What a talent. I listen to him daily.

    • I agree with you completely there should have been a thorough investigation. They only took the word of two hookers

    • Michael Swanson says:

      The ‘woman’, Miss Boyer, put something in Sam’s drink at PJ’S, the club where they met. She had come in with a guy who ran errands for the mob. RCA was run by the mob. They drove Sam to an undisclosed spot near the Hacienda motel, stripped and beat him up to the point of breaking his neck because he would not give in to their demands of staying with the label. Allen Klein, Cooke’s wife and his business partner, J. W. Alexander, were all in on it. Sam was about to divorce his wife because she was cheating with Bobby Womack. And he was about to cut ties with Klein, because he found out he, Klein, had cheated him of his royalties. He had hired a lawyer to go through with it, but Klein, the evil genius, had the phones tapped and found out about it. The whole deal was staged and set up to make it look like Cooke voluntarily took the tramp. Boyer, to this seedy motel. Bertha was probably paid off to play her role of shooting him in ‘self defense’. That is what REALLY happened, not the farce of a story that has been told for over 50 years. Just like the Kennedy assassination, the murder of the great Sam Cooke was also lied about.

    • mr soul says:

      Please think out side of the box . Read the book one more river to cross. and put a little more then 2 cent in too it.

    • young guy with a big booty says:

      Victor You have such a valid point. All the evidential support is gone so it would be hard to open the case back up.

    • CJ says:

      I agree with you brother. He got setup and jacked. I think the case should be reopened just to clear his name and reputation.

      • Chas says:

        Why and to what cause. It wouldn’t bring him back and hiw reputation lives on with his music. I say let the man rest in peace and just enjoy what he left us.

    • Maxwell Mann says:

      Read on the internet that they had an/affair/relationship/Sam had been paying her for at least a month, was some investigator, never could find anymore about this .

  7. Brian Powell says:

    It’s really strange but, often the truth, that the most talented people, in any field of endeavour, have some character flaws.
    Almost like the perfect person is not allowed to exist.
    Or maybe the talent is granted to flawed personality’s as compensation.

  8. Liv says:

    I believe vindication for Sam Cooke, will come about through a re-opening of the investigation. The first one was tainted. Logic points to the conclusion that he was set up.

    • Greg says:

      I agree….complete set up. I live only a few miles from where that motel was. Every time I pass it I feel bad, and remember

    • Heidi H Christensen says:

      I hope you are right! I loved him so!

    • annie delores williams says:

      I believe a good detective should open the case. What happened to Sam’s credit cards? Was that mentioned in court? Or was things omitted because Same had his recording studio? Sam kidnapped Boyer? Sam did not have to force anyone to be with him. I SMELL A RAT, A BIG RAT.

  9. The prostitute was the bait used to lure Cooke by himself so that he could be murdered. He was about to mess with the Jesuit’s money for real.

  10. Mark says:

    Waving a big wad of cash around in front of a criminal element is never smart. Sam got set up, it was a robbery straight and simple. Cost him his life. But he had himself to blame as well, because he put himself in that situation.

  11. Suanna Crew says:

    Given that most key players are dead and gone, no one will ever know the whole, true story. What say we let sleeping dogs lie. RIP to one of the most talented men ever. God Bless his soul.

    • Hall says:

      I disagree. The reason being reflects on how they tried to make Sam out as a womanizing, kidnapping raper who died foolishly by the hands of a hotel manager protecting herself from an outraged man.

      ABKCO now owns the catalogue of Sam Cooke. Allen Klein was there when Sam was killed; he either did it himself or witnessed the execution. “He never went anywhere without his limousine”. He was in LA that night – he held a gun to Johnny Morisette Sr.’s head, (Johnny is at Sam’s funeral crying over the casket “Sam I’m so sorry. Please forgive me”. He was devastated in the part he was made to play.)

      B.G. Rhule, Erik Greene, Daniel Wolff and Leroy Crume books give deep and thoughtful insight into the life and times of Sam Cooke. The truth that can be told should be told. The cold case should be reopened and resolved. Sam Cooke should be redeemed and these things should be revealed to the public. This is truly one time “sleeping dogs should not be allowed to lie”. Back royalties should be paid to the Sam Cooke’s family. Klein lived to be in his eighties.He murdered and stole the life and life works of Sam Cooke at a young 33. His family has prospered and are still prospering. My heart aches every time Sam’s murder and how they murdered him comes to mind. The family and circle of friends and fans knew all along what possibly happened that fateful night. The truth can come out now because the culprits are dead and they no longer have to fear for their lives. I just wished they would have come out many long years ago. Nevertheless, it is never too late.

      Sam cannot rest until the truth, the best that could be told today, is told. I am anxiously awaiting the biopic to be released. My prayers are with all who are involved. Blessings!!!

      • Petronella says:

        He was a womanizer. Ladies man. And his family obviously did not benefit from any contracts signed by Sam, but they did benefit greatly when Sam was alive. No one believes Sam kidnapped that chinese girl, but that money roll inspired her actions. Guilt is a stage of mourning, and it’s not surprising many feel guilt and apologize to the deceased in the coffin.

        • Curtina says:

          Sam I believe was just like any other man. I think he was a ladies man, not a womanizer. He just naturally had ALL the women, Bobby Womack had made that statement about him. “He had ALL the women, he said. That’s because he was good looking beyond measure, talented and gifted beyond the average person, business smart and a very loving soul. Any woman would want to get next to that!

      • Hasan says:

        Fascinating take. If ABKCO owns all rights to Sam Cooke, do you expect them to implicate themselves in his murder? In regards to a motion picture about Cooke.

        • Hall says:

          Definitely not. As long as the truth is told is what really matters. The murder of our leaders, especially the pioneers – business and political, has to be told. Dick Gregory has a YouTube presentation concerning the truth about Dr. MLK, Jr.’s death. Enlightening. As a community leader I learn from the books written about our history. Black Wall Street is a great place to start in the education of our society as a whole – all ethnicities. Blessings.

        • Dan Beane says:

          I love his songs and would see a movie about him. Is there one?

        • ANTHONY says:

          Has that motion picture come out yet?

      • Assata says:

        So they reopen the case and find the same results, then what. Alcohol, drugs, Plenty of Sex and on, and on. It’s the life and he got caught up. No conspiracy just stupidity. My Grandmother would turn in her grave if she read what I wrote … but let’s face the position of all the players related in this situation during this era. Stop the noise.

    • Mark says:

      Could not disagree more. The man was murdered, but history has incorrectly branded him a louse and an attempted rapist. That is the memory you prefer people to have of him? I want his name cleared. The story told by the prostitute was ridiculous and the failure of the police to really investigate was even more ridiculous.

      • Greg says:

        Mark, I totally agree with you. Why would she have even waited in the car for him while he went in and registered, if she was in some danger. I think Boyer even lured him there in the first place.

    • Emily says:

      God bless Sam Cooke . I love him. I feel so bad that he was framed and shot by Franklin. They worked together for that money. I wish that he was still alive until he was in his nineties. HE IS TOO AWESOME TO DIE LIKE THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • mr soul says:

      You are (DEAD) wrong that estate bring in millions and Allen family is living off it. and paying his wife off for rest of her life to keep it on the down low.

  12. Robert Russ says:

    I love Sam n his music.He was so talented,he could do so much with that voice of his.He could do it all.God bless him.There will never b another Sam cook

    • Petronella says:

      Don Lemmon of CNN sure looks like him and same happy disposition. Wonder if he can sing like Sam Cooke. No one has come close since 1964.

  13. Tee Watts says:

    A good read is Sam Cooke’s nephew’s book, “Our Uncle Sam,” by Erik Green. Many police report facts are refuted there. Coincidentally, Charles Miller, the original saxophonist for the group War, was murdered there. The Hacienda was notorious for nefarious criminal activity.

  14. CURIOUS says:

    Aside from the music industry death theories, I find it odd that nobody ever mentions Sam’s relationships with the Civil Rights movement, Nation of Islam, friendships with Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Dr.King, and others which were targeted by government and labeled as “subversive”. Needless to say, many of them died unnatural deaths within that era. Purportedly, he offered to fund MLK & Malcolm in their endeavors.
    There is much historical evidence that our government has often “found it necessary” to make use of organized crime, most notably during WWII. Out of all the authors claiming conspiracy theories, have any of them ever made FOIA requests for a file on Sam? Now, THAT I would be very interested to see.

  15. Hall says:

    Please read “One More River To Cross”; The Redemption of Sam Cooke”
    The truth and answers are all there!!!

    • I think that the two ladies had a arrangement together on rolling men and sam happen to be a man of important once he told them he was going to call the police, they had to stop hin from doing it.

  16. Bill Smithsonian says:

    Al Schmitt is a Joe Pesci maffia thug. He ran with the mafia and ran the recording business with force through the mafia.

  17. Petronella says:

    Reading about Sam’s story with all the info available on the internet now is so revealing. Everyone admired him back in 1963 in New Jersey and his wonderful music played a lot on the radio. However, everyone was told at that time that he was shot by a jealous husband when he caught Sam with his wife in a cheap motel. That was the cover-up that stopped more intensive investigation of Jewish homosexuals abuse of entertainers in LA. He was so handsome and young and vulnerable. Suspicions finally started after Michael Jackson tried to expose it and other young men victims began to come forward. Members of my family were horrified to be faced with it and left LA in disgust with the power structure there. And no one can blame the mafia anymore like they used to.

  18. carey says:

    i know for a fact his spirit didnt rest after he crossed over…bobby womack later wrote in a bio. that one morning when he awoke in bed with sam’s wife….the french-style doors were wide opened, they were closed the night before when they went to bed…almost as if sam’s spirit was saying get the f*ck out of my house!!!…actor david carradine(kung fu series)..had a similar expirence before he passed..with a father of a family who passed after he entered into the family abode….it can be researched on youtube..

  19. mich wolfe says:

    Sam cooke was killed by our government for his song change why else would only recording of him singing it of those sneaky white basterds at the time hoover or johnson if they didnt do it you can bet they knew about it thats the way the government deals with stuff thats bigger than them destroy it get rid of it .He was such a great singer to bad we were all robbed of alot of great music such a shame.Some day truth will come out .

  20. Sam Fan says:

    Athena, Thanks so much for your post. I was (an am) a great fan of Sam Cooke’s music. When I first read a few years ago about the circumstances of his death, I was devastated. I could not believe that a man who sang such good and wholesome songs with such passion could have really been a womanizer so at odds with his public persona. Whenever I hear Cupid, Only 16, Chain Gang, or Twisting the Night Away, I’m transported back to a wonderful time of my youth in the 1960s when these songs were popular. Sam Cooke was always one of my favorite singers of the era. I really believed that Sam had his heart and soul into these songs and that I somehow knew him as almost a personal friend. Athena, your post at least lets me know that there was another side of the real Sam Cooke that is more like the man that I thought I knew through his music. I will choose to believe that this was the real Sam Cooke and that the man who was shot at this cheap motel was not the essence of the man but an aberration. Thanks, again, for telling us about the Sam you knew personally which fits better with the Sam I thought I knew. RIP, my dear Sam Cooke.

  21. kevin says:

    the greatest singer who ever lived ….. R.I.P SAM

  22. terry says:

    Ooh my how I loved the man’s music, leading me to do a bit of research on this soul behind the music and my do I regret that decision, his short lived life ended in a such a tragic that shouldn’t have been, his love for (cheap)woman made it easy for his early grave. As for his wife, clearly the woman was cheating on with his friend while he was still alive, when did they get a chance to date if they married 2 months after Sam’s death? His friend seemed envies of his success and wanted what he had and used what he knew. I’m not gonna entertain the mob story it seems too far fetched. And Boyes and Frankilin now those 2 could have easily been working together to rob Boyes’ clients and that hotel was known as the prostitutes’ paradise, their playground, so it’s possible the ladies knew each other very well and were used to this kind of thing but Sam decided to fight his robbers which unfortunately led to his death. Frankilin had killed a man in the same hotel 6 months prior while Boyes was arrested for prostitution 2months after Cooke’s death and few years later landed in jail for murder of her boyfriend…join the dots. I can sit here and say if Sam didn’t pick up the ho, if Sam went to a more expensive place, place he knew not one chosen by the whore, if Sam carried on with the meeting and went home instead of flossing his money around, buying people drink, getting pissed to his knees, if only, if only but we all know you can’t escape death and you live by the gun and die by the gun. He was a womaniser who died in a the hands of woman. Too sad a story, may his soul rest in peace :)

    • Bettie says:

      I also agree. It had to be a set up. She saw her opportunity and ceased it. Because why this particular hotel out of all other hotels because she had been there before with other tricks. And yes i believe she and boyers had connections. Oh so sad that such an onspiration such as Sam Cooke could die like that in especially in the public eye making him look a criminal. Although his over drinking didn’t help. But all and all he is still one of my favorite singers of all time. And I still love him!! Continue to rest in peace my love

  23. kawaiya says:

    Wow I know I’m to young to even care but this is soo tragic how could this amazing fantastic man wanna rape someone soo tragic and to me I really do think his ex wife set him up because rite after he died she went with his dearest friend Bobby womack I mean come on

    • CATHY says:

      Yes I believe his wife and those two hotel bums set him up. It is obvious/

      • P says:

        I would like to think set-up as well, but honestly how would just being at the same place (the restaurant) at the same time equate to being set up that’s called chance. I mean was Boyer so exotically beautiful the persons just new sam would find his way to her that night? Or was there already a history between the two. What man likened to a womanizer or player gets into a serious altercation with someone over a known hooker? Did Sam really not know this woman was a hooker was he that oblivious when every1 else seem to know. I can understand going to a lesser known motel on the black side of town where if u were seen checking into a late night motel the scrutiny wouldn’t be as high but who by December of 1964 regardless of color couldn’t or didn’t recognize sam cooke? Now when u say a guitar player he knew introduced him to her one may lean toward the side of conspiracy , was bobby womack the guitar player being referenced and if so then there would be reason to think set up given what happened in the 60 days after the murder with his wife remarrying . I definitely would say cover-up due largely in fact to the really intense time this tragic event took place- the 60s. There were many questions unanswered because they weren’t asked and in 1964 white folks responsible for providing justice were not going to over exert themselves to render any on behalf of a black man of the day even if his name was sam cooke. Especially with the circumstances of his quote unquote drunken rage wasn’t much the police had to do in this situation. He was killed by a black woman in what she described as self defense against a raging drunk man so with a black culprit and female how much backlash could the white justice system really take from this, not much. Another question for ms franklin is did you beat the mans dead body with that broom ? Did you beat him by yourself with no help ? I can’t imagine a drunk man of 33 years old being overpowered by a woman even if she does outweigh him. Just imagine how strong a man with a blood alcohol level double the legal limit should have been . If he fell on top of this woman during a tussle getting him off should have been no easy task. If you and he were tussling why does he look beat up and you look like you just woke up I mean does not show any signs of being in an altercation of this magnitude from the pictures I’ve seen. I also want to know in a rage or in any event who puts on one shoe especially if they have on predominantly no clothes to begin with. I can buy lots of theories to what happened in this crime you know being drugged, being knocked unconscious , the two women or three working in tandem, I could buy three women beating the hell out of one man even two women would be believable but a broom stick is not gone break nobody hands nor almost separate the head from the shoulders. People say mob hit. I get so tired of the notion that the black man was helpless during this period of time in American history because they weren’t they were politically and socially oppressed but not to the point where they didn’t have a brain and people were handling them any which way thus the civil rights movement in itself . The Black man at these times had many organizations and fraternities political or otherwise that would support and protect. Let’s be clear Malcolm x was killed by someone of like color so we can’t blame racism or the illuminati for all events happening during this era even as much as we’d like to or as easy as it would be to do so. How outspoken really was sam cooke? More so than Muhammad Ali? Hell no. So why did the mob or the illuminati let Ali live and kill sam cooke. Music and sports have always been the common ground between the races here in America and worldwide usually when there’s a problem in those two arenas it’s about money and it’s usually the people closest to us who will do whatever necessary to attain a piece of the pie. I think the man was killed senselessly out of fear that by him being sam cooke and them knowing exactly who he was there would be severe repercussions had he lived to report them attempting to rob him or anything else they may have done to him during a conscious state. Look at the picture of how his body is propped up who gets killed and sits upright with a leg under them . that death position is akin to that of an overdose victim. I can’t even see any signs of blood or him in a pool of blood from this picture and I say there has to be more pictures. By no means am I disagreeing with any of the theories that we’ve put together over the years, but these stories from these treacherous women were too perfectly fallen into place and so believable .to corroborate all parties stories and to be that good as far as the sequential timing and how each woman’s testimony was carefully placed to back up the others story you have to be on the same page. How coincidentally were the hotel manager and owner on the phone while all of this just happened to be transpiring at this odd hour of the morning sounds convenient to me. There’s plenty more that we will never know that will never be uncovered but it’s just sad tragic and pitiful how things get swept under the rug. The man was and will forever be the legend ahead of his time and after

        • Rosalyn Slack says:

          I was a tremendous fan of Sam Cooke’s even though I was only 13 or 14 at the time he was as an up and coming star!! My older sister loved him and bought all of his records so I learned all the songs!! It’s tragedy how he died and I feel Franklin was lying and so was that Hooker he was with!! It’s a shame how the poor CHOICES we make in life can KILL us!! Only God knows what really happened but maybe the truth will come out someday! ! Now Bobby Womack is dead and I feel he was shady for marrying Barbara Cooke!! R.I.P Sam Cooke! !

        • CURIOUS says:

          Why was Ali allowed to live and not Sam? According to several sources, NOI had Ali’s back countering the threats. Sam did not officially join them, wanting to be his own man. Nobody had his back.

      • I truly enjoyed sam’s music back in those days. terrific talent. R.I.P. talented man we still miss your voice’.

    • Melvyn Williams says:

      Hi Kawaiya,

      I think Sam wife set him up, because Sam Cooke was a womanizer, but he did not try to rape the hooker, the hooker tried to rob Sam, and it went horribly wrong.

  24. james says:

    why is it that in the death scene pics there is no blood anywhere which would indicate that he was killed some place else and placed there so the theory is she shot him an beat him beyond recognition i dont think soo seems like the work of more than one person

  25. renee says:

    way before my time, my mom would play sam cooke’s songs. I grew up listening to this man and just fell in love. he had that charm, charisma and beautiful smile. so tragic about his death. I believe he was set up/mob hit-murder. just a talent gone too soon like many of them. rip mr. cooke, your legacy lives on.

  26. Leward Moore says:

    Sam Cooke was a true talent indeed. RIP and much love.

  27. Brenna says:

    Wow – this entirely speculative “article” is some serious victim blaming BS. Dude attacks two women and you still have to find some way to spin it. Just because the girl was a pro doesn’t mean that Sam Cooke had any right to assault her. Shame on you.

  28. Athena says:

    I knew Sam, quite well. Sam was a gentleman.
    I was 16 when I met Sam, of course I was star struck. Pretty soon I was in love. Sam treated me like a little sister. I wanted to be his girlfriend he, laughed at that proposal. Saying that I was a sweet little girl and should behave myself. At the time I looked and acted like a 16 year old. All the time thinking that I was real grown up.
    All I wanted was Sam and he would have no part of. He continued to act like my big brother. He helped me financial when I started college. I still love Sam, he is my hero. We were friend until he died. I was a virgin at the time, Sam knew this, I remember him telling me to save it for my husband.

  29. linda says:

    The Chilite’s son theory/statement sums it up best and that is Sam was murdered by the mob and beaten to death because of the impact he was making in the music industry. They viewed him as a threat. Therefore, lured him off and murdered him. What a shame. Rip Sam.

    • Metal Goddess says:

      Oh give me a damn break. Personally I think the guy made some stupid choices that night and he wound getting killed. Maybe by some chance it was some folks close to him that tightened the noose for personal gain but I seriously doubt the Mafia gave a shit about some singer among many singers. If there is one thing I’ve found about movie stars and rock and roll singers from the 50’s and 60’s is that they became more famous because they died than when they were living. As a matter of fact you could say they are worth more money dead than alive.

  30. Nessa4560 says:

    Here’s my 10c worth on the senseless, money motivated, robbery-gone-wrong death of the great Sam Cooke-
    1. Kidnapping claim—-The prostitute had many opportunities to “get away”- she was in two clubs with him and in the car rides between. She also jumped out of the Ferrari at the Hacienda and went into the foyer to watch Sam sign for the room. Why didn’t she take the opportunities?
    2. Rape claim—-The prostitute calls rape but why does Sam leave the rape scene to go to the bathroom letting her escape.
    3. The murder—-The motel owner, Carr is on the end of the phonecall to Franklin at the time of Cooke’s alleged breaking entrance. Why would she then stay on the pnone and only hang up to call the police after hearing the shots that she presumes are fatal.
    4. The murder scene—-Sam Cooke is found wearing nothing but his sports jacket and one shoe. This piece of information given by Franklin, is what I find the most unbelievable- This is my thinking—-Remember 1. Elisa walks into join Sam as he checks in at the foyer at 2.30am 2. The prostitute enters the room with him probably 2.35am 3. Shortly after arriving in the room, Sam goes to the bathroom and she runs off with his money (which she probably pick pocketed) when he goes to the bathroom. (I don’t believe his clothes have been stolen from their room, I reckon he wears them into the bathroom and then discovers his money and credit cards have been stolen) 4.The prostitute goes to the office to hide out with her accomplices, Franklin and Carr. 5. Sam jumps in his car, goes to the office to find her, because there would be no other reason for him to stop ( he had already paid for the room on signing). 6. Sam breaks in, because he wants his belongings- the women attack him and he ends up dead 7. They concoct a plan and story, steal his clothes and Elisa is sent to make the phone call down the block at 3.08am and Carr calls the police to let them know what she hears via the phone conversation shortly before Elisa.
    Of course, we will never know the truth but the version given by these surviving witnesses seem to have lots of holes… so thought I’d add a theory.

  31. PRINCEZZ says:


  32. nehemiah says:

    you hit the nail on the head Runee not only sam but jimi, donnie, and otis

  33. Giovanni LiCalsi says:

    What most likely happened is that one or two of Boyer’s male pimp accomplices called the Hacienda Hotel, before Sam Cooke left the bar, and brought Franklin into the conspiracy to rob Sam Cooke. When Sam and Boyer were in the Ferrari, ready to leave, Boyer’s accomplices forced their way into his car and had him drive to the Hacienda Hotel, at gunpoint. The second accomplice and Boyer followed in pursuit to the motel to complete their plan of robbery. Sam most likely found out that Franklin was somehow involved in the robbery and confronted her about the robbery setup. Franklin felt compelled to silence him by murdering him to cover up any testimony from him to the police.
    Most likely the police didn’t take the normal investigative steps to thoroughly go over all of the physical evidence and closed the case prematurely due to racism. The murder should be reopened because there are too many unknowns for this to be a closed case.

  34. Segun Adeleke says:

    When I was growing up in Lagos Nigeria,in Africa.I was living with my uncle,who was a Captain in the Nigeria Army, and all he played was Sam Cookes song.The Album Swing low sweet chariot,with the tracks,they called the wind Moriah,chain gang,my grandfather clock were the best songs I have ever listened to in my life.Sam Cooke was a genious.To me, he was the best singer that ever lived.I just ordered some of his CD’s over the internet this past saturday.No human being sings like Sam Cooke.Growing up,I love Sam Cooke too much.All my kids love Sam Cooke, and can sing all his songs. I hate the lady that shot Sam Cooke.

  35. angelo williams says:

    Even though Sam Cooke was before my time i remember as a small child listening and singing along to my mom and dads records, i loved (cupid), you send me), Another saturday night) i am a singer and at the time as a kid i would sing along to the old records my parents had, as i grew up and got older i got into (A Change is gonna come) via Spike lee’s hit film Malcolm X, Sam Cooke had a wonderful voice and made great music which was one of the things that got my attention as a kid, the other is the fact that we favor minus the nose, myn is narrow but i love love songs to this day and Sam Cook knew how to deliever a ballad him and Jackie Wilson, it was a terrible thing to die the way he did in that situation and yes there is much speculation the mob, rival crooked record companies or producers, jealousy, the wife, race related yada yada yada but whoever or whatever forces were at work that night bottom line, Sam made some bad choices to help it come to pass, flashing money, intoxicated and picking Up that ho

  36. NATHAN PRETLOW says:

    According to Boyer, Sam raced down Santa Monica, and against her protests, pulled onto the freeway. She later told police that she asked again to be taken home, but Sam said, “Don’t worry now. I just want to go for a little ride.” Why would Boyer get in Sam Cooke’s car just to want go home ? why did she get in the car in the first place ? That’s sounds like crap to me.. .They exited the highway at Figueroa Street, near LAX. Boyer asked again to be taken home, but Sam drove straight to the Hacienda Motel. He got out of the car and walked up to a glass partition at the manager’s office while Boyer remained in the car. Oh yea so why Ms Boyer didn’t she try to run away instead of staying in the car ? This lady Boyer is so much BS it smells. He registered under his own name.Why would Sam Cooke use his real name if he had plans to rape Ms Boyer ? another fishy story by Boyer. Sam drove around to the back of the motel. Boyer claimed he then dragged her into the room, pinned her on the bed and started to tear her clothes off. “I knew he was going to rape me,” Bull shit ! So why Boyer didn’t scream for help why nobody heard her ? because it didn’t happen And why she didn’t fight him off her ?That’s BS to. It was know that Ms Boyer was a prostitute.A drunken Sam Cooke wanted her service meaning sex.So they went to motel.While Sam was in the bathroom fleshing up.Ms Boyer did the old prostitute trick of taking a john clothes while the poor sap is preoccupied in the bathroom.That’s what Ms Boyer did to Sam.She was trying to rip off Sam Cooke.Here another fishy tale by Ms Boyer.The first thing she said she did was pound on the night manager’s door. Franklin didn’t answer. Boyer ran half a block, dumped her clothes on the ground and got dressed. Oh yea ! Why didn’t Ms Boyer just run for her freedom ? Tangled among her clothes were Sam’s shirt and pants. She left them on the ground,Yea right like she didn’t know she had men clothes with her.found a phone booth and called the police.Oh yea prostitute calling the police on a john.The only sad thing here that it should not happen.But Sam Cooke wanted some and it went to a point of no return.Sam was drunk came out of the bathroom found the bitch not there got mad about it and being drunk didn’t help it.It just escalated and made Sam overreacted to the point of arguing with the Bertha Franklin,then one thing lead to another.It’s like Bumps Blackwell once said, “Sam would walk past a good girl to get to a whore.” But this whore and Sam’s sexual transgressions cause Sam Cooke his life.

  37. Rob J says:

    I have just read RW Stofus’ poorly written reply to my mail of January 13th, and haven’t laughed so much for ages. What does RW stand for? Is it Reknown Waster?

    Sam was killed because his relentless sexual drive
    took over from his rational thoughts. The woman he was with,was also involved in a similar shooting with a punter in the late 70s. He was a gifted talent who died needlessly. Utimately, he was the author of his own fate.


  38. Carl Green says:

    I think Sam Cooke was ahead of his time and his association with The Nation Of Islam, Malcom X and Muhammed Ali brought fear in the establishment hearts. Not to mention the Mob who control the music industry then and now wanted to teach him a lesson even if it meant his life.

  39. RW STOUFUS says:

    Rob J is a MORON!
    Cooke may have been a wanderer but he was a High Class player
    and walked around loaded $$$. Sam Cooke NO PUN INTENDED would never have been caught dead at that SHIT HOLE $3 a night motel.


  40. simon says:

    yea he really was a good looking, talented man! RIP Sam!

  41. Rob J says:

    Sam’s death was brought on by his inability to keep
    his trouser flies zipped up. He was very gifted, but very promiscuous.Unfortunately,his many one night stands lead him into a situation where it cost him his life. He could have afforded to have brought the
    services of a high class call girl,but he went to a sleazy motel instead. Peter Guralnick’s superb biography on Sam dispels any myths about his tragic, but pointless demise.

  42. Lasse says:

    Yes, his legacy live on

  43. Valerie Billings says:

    Sam Cooke was before my tome but from what I gather and see , he was so talented and business savvy. We will never know the “real” story of what happened that night in that hotel. The real players ( Sam, Bertha Franklin, & Elise Boyer) know what happened but they’re no longer here.
    Sam gone too soon like most of our talented artist like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston just to name a few.

    May Sam rest in peace and his legacy live on

  44. Ade says:

    @Patrick Seriously the dude was in a hotel with a prostitute and it’s the wife that is a monster?? Men get away with too much, I guess he’s a dignified player but she’s a whore… you’ve gotta be kidding me

  45. PATRICK says:


  46. tasha says:

    It’s a shame we will never know…. I was born in a different era, but I grew up on his music. My grandparents played Sam at any and every event we had!
    We all new the words. It’s a crime how a black person death meant so little back then.They were able to cover it up so fast without a question. So glad times are much better now.We have voices!!! And it’s ok to be heard now.Hell the Presdient is BLACK!

    • melvyn williams says:

      Sam Cooke was great. It’s a shame he died the way he did, with no one knowing the truth. I am glad times have changed and things are a lot fairer than they were back in those days. and the president of the US is not black. He is mixed ethnicity.

  47. The Chi Lites Son says:

    This is The Chi Lites Son

    The Mysterious Death Of Black Legendary Entertainers Is Not A Surprise The Black Icons Like Jackie Wilson And The Chi Lites Co-Founder Creadel Jones Singer Of The Chi Lites Who Die Mysterious Shortly Before The Royalties In Which Where Distributed After His Death Was Published In 1994, But Exploitation Still Allowed For His Death In Which Was From The Abuse Of Exploitation That Caused The Chi Lites Creadel Jones To Be Left Homeless And Destitute From Being Exploited From The Chi Lites
    Record Label Brunswick Records In Which Was Mob Ran With Owner Nat Tarnopol. Royalties In Which Was Earned From The Chi Lites Over 100,000 Million Records That Was Sold Through Out Creadel Jones And His Group The Chi Lites Music Carrie Earned Over 1 Billion Dollars Not Including Records Sales After His Death In 1994 Until Currently Are Concerts.
    The Reports Of Sam Cooks Death Resulted In A Medical Report That Stated That Sam Cook Was Beaten To Death To The Point His Body Had Appeared To Not Be Able To Be Matched With His Normal Photo Image. The Mafia Was Suspected In Being Involved With His Death. Sam Cook Threaten To That Over The Hold Of Black Legendary Entertainers In Which Were Exploited By The Mafia And Jewish White Owned Record Labels In Which Exploited Billions Of Dollars From Black Legendary Entertainers Like The Chi Lites, Jackie Wilson, Sammy Davis Jr, Extra…..
    The Chi Lites Were On Over forty Different Record Label In Which The Chi Lites Original Record Label Licensed Ranging From Warner Brothers, to The Following Capital Records, Epic Records, Sony Records, RCA Records, Crimson Records, Atlantic Records, Brunswick Records, Motown Records, Poly Gram Records, Artesia Records, Mercury Records, Time Life Records, Rhino Records, Crimson Records, Island Records, Buck Eye Records, Chi Sound Records, Columbia Records, MCA Records, Universal Music Group, A&M Records, Decca Records, Fox Records, ABC Records, Jive Records, BMI Records, CBS Records, AME Records, Sun Records, Extra…….
    Many Of The Record Refused To Even Publicizes Any Of The Chi Lites Record Sales Are Any Of The Legendary Black Entertainers Records Sales Like Jackie Wilson Even Today The Cover Up Is Still Being Done By Many Of The Black Legendary Entertainers Record Labels In Which Sold Black Legendary Entertainers Records And Earned Tens And Hundreds Of Billions Of Dollars Combined With All These Legendary Black Entertainers Record Earning Revenues Michael Jackson Alone Earn Over 14 Billion Dollars From Just His Records Sales Alone. Just Add His Estimated Records Sales In Which Was Reported 750,000,000 Million Records Sales As Mentioned In 2009 Following His Death. The Billions Of Dollars Earned From His Concerts Earnings Which In Total Were Over 4 Billion Dollars Many In Which Were Over 150,000,000 To 200,000,000 Million Dollars Ever World Tour From World Tours Thru Out The World.
    Creadel Jones Was Thought Be Allowed To Be Homeless And To Be Murdered By Poverty in which Was Intended To Cause Homelessness And Death .For More On this Subject Go To

  48. Crystal says:

    Yes he had everything and it looked like Bobby Womack wanted it. He was so goodlooking and talented it made your heart ache. RIP Sam.

  49. RUNEE wRIGHT says:

    The man we knew as Sam Cooke was a brazen figure like Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin or any other ballast with a tinkling of African soul. Sam was building something our nation has been successful with destroying and that is Black wealth and goodness of being black. I really want to expose these facts with research based dialogue, but it would take a fool not to realize the gravity of arrested development with the African in America. Sam was the first real musical idol in America( ladies falling out) and him being a cross over figure was too huge for who-ever to stomach. Our race of people in America would be further ahead; if it were not for evil planning of evil people to thwart our real honest growth( records companies and thugs ripping off our narrow minded artist), contempt for a Black man being successful in a free nation of free people and the thought of a Black( Man of African descent)being successful in America was a black eye for white America. I think to the contrary; Black success would mean the African in America has a found a home in a place that attest to promote human dignity and human honor. However,just like slavery lasted in this country for an inexcusable time while it was never (never) legal on the books withstanding the US Constitution; which does not have the word slavery in it. The practice of slavery was carried by men/people who have been the mortal enemy of the African descent person in America and maybe the world. These people have perpetuated a crime untold in the annuals of the world, because a lie is the greatest bondage of all. “The Black (African) man was never legally allowed to be a slave in America, but with wanton law breakers; crimes go on today unchecked, just like the days of old. Research pending if those would like to assist, but the evidence is clear; “the Black man has had many relationships with the white man in America, be too few partnerships have occur” and this is not the Black Man’s fault. He has not been welcomed even when he earns his way. I have more; but this is good for thought now; Kebra Negusa.

  50. Rick says:

    Sam Cooke had it all…fantastic looks. brilliant songwriter. great business sense. Maybe success on that level did go to his head. His opus “A Change Is Gonna Come” was on the charts when he passed. Very important figure in music.

    • J hicks says:

      Sam Cooke was murdered plain and simple. Etta James saw sam at the funeral. Someone was paid off to cover the crime.nothing add up other than cover up!!

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