The latest installment of Netflix’s ReMastered investigative series looks at the mysterious death of one of music’s golden voices credited as the “father of modern soul music.” The Two Killings of Sam Cooke, which premiered on Feb. 8, questions whether the late singer’s “outspoken views on civil rights may have contributed to his death.”
Cooke was killed at a seedy Los Angeles motel, more than 50 years ago. The motel’s manager, Bertha Lee Franklin, said that she shot 33-year-old Cooke to death in self-defense. Franklin alleged that Cooke, who was staying at the motel, broke into her office in a rage threatening her and demanding to know the whereabouts of 22-year-old Elisa Boyer, a woman that later claimed he attempted to rape her. Boyer said that she ran away when Cooke went into the bathroom, mistakenly grabbing some of his clothing along with her own.
Franklin shot Cooke three times and beat him with a broomstick before he succumbed to his wounds. Other reports suggest Boyer was a sex worker who robbed him. Although conflicting witness accounts from Dec. 11, 1964 and unanswered questions have long surrounded the shooting, Cooke’s death was ruled a justifiable homicide.
Three years before he died, Cooke, his then manager, Roy Crain, and singer-songwriter J. W. Alexander, launched SAR Records. Cooke also created a publishing and management company, Kags Music. He signed to RCA Records where he released the singles “Chain Gang” “Bring It On Home to Me,” “Twisting the Night Away” and more. By 1963, Cooke entered into a five-year deal with music executive Allen Klein, but he didn’t live long enough to reap the benefits. Klein, who went on to manage the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, ended up owning the rights to Cooke’s music after his death. Klein died in 2009.
The documentary, featuring Dionne Warwick, Smokey Robinson, Quincy Jones and other music greats, seeks to explore longstanding theories that Cooke’s influence in music, his refusal to be silent on civil rights issues and friendship with Malcolm X, made him a target.
Watch the trailer for ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke below.