#31 Sam Cooke
Born: January 22nd, 1931
Died: December 11th, 1964
Age at death: 33
Cause of death: Gunshot wound
Singer Sam Cooke was shot and killed by Bertha Franklin, the manager of Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles. According to the official police record, Cooke had checked in to the motel on the evening of December 11th, 1964. Later that night, Cooke had banged on the door of Franklin’s office, shouting “Where’s the girl?!” The girl Cooke was referring to was Elisa Boyer, the woman he was with when he arrived at the motel.
Franklin shouted back that there was no one in her office except herself, but an enraged Cooke did not believe her and forced his way into the office, naked except for one shoe and a sport jacket. Cooke grabbed Franklin and the two began to scuffle. When a scared Franklin managed to get away, she retrieved a gun and fired at Cooke in self-defense. Cooke had sustained a gunshot wound to the chest, which was later determined to have pierced his heart. After an inquest and investigation, the courts ruled Cooke’s death to be a justifiable homicide.
Commonly referred to as the King of Soul, Cooke was praised for his distinctive vocals and notable contributions to the genre. He began singing as a child and joined the gospel music group Soul Stirrers as lead singer in the 1950s. As a solo artist, Cooke released a string of hit songs, including You Send Me, A Change Is Gonna Come, Cupid, and Wonderful World, among many others.