Samuel Cook, born January 22, 1931, was known professionally as Sam Cooke, an American singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur. He is commonly known as the King of Soul for his distinctive voice and importance within R&B music. His pioneering contributions to soul music contributed to the rise of Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Billy Preston, and popularized the likes of Otis Redding and James Brown. He possessed a natural smooth singing voice that has never been surpassed. Sam Cooke had 30 U.S. top 40 hits between 1957 and 1964, plus three more after his death. Large-scale hits like “You Send Me”, “A Change Is Gonna Come”, “Cupid”, “Chain Gang”, “Wonderful World” and ” Twistin’ the Night Away” are some of his most leading songs. Cooke was also among the first modern black performers and composers to attend to the business side of his musical career. He founded both a record label and a publishing company as an extension of his careers as a singer and composer. He also took an active part in the Civil Rights Movement.
On December 11, 1964, at the age of 33, Cooke was shot and killed by Bertha Franklin, the manager of the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles, California. After an inquest, the courts ruled Cooke’s death to be a justifiable homicide. Since that time, the circumstances of his death have been called into question by Cooke’s family.
Cooke was married twice. His first marriage was to singer-dancer Dolores Elizabeth Milligan Cook, who was killed in an auto accident in Fresno, California, in 1959. Although he and Dolores were divorced, Cooke paid for his ex-wife’s funeral expenses. Cooke and his second wife, Barbara, had three children: Linda (b 1953); Tracey (b 1960); and Vincent (1961 – 1963), who drowned in the family’s swimming pool. Cooke also fathered at least two other children out of wedlock: Denise Somerville (b 1953) and Keith Bolling (b 1957).