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Sam Cooke had a perfect voice and image but not a perfect character
I don't mean to slander Cooke with that title. Even though he is my favorite singer of that era, and the owner of the sweetest, most graceful voice I have ever heard, I have to accept based on the research I've done (it doesn't take much) that he was not murdered. There was no conspiracy to kill him. He, with no help from anyone else, set in motion the chain of events that led to his incredibly tragic and humiliating death. He did this by behaving in a violent and unseemly manner, entirely unbecoming to the squeaky clean image he had so carefully cultivated.
I think this documentary does a great job highlighting the musical genius and wide array of other talents this man had. Sam's gift to the world will be everlasting, and he obviously had a tremendous impact on his many fans and of course the people who knew and loved him best.
But I think it was a big mistake to put such a strong emphasis on the "conspiracy" angle. It diminishes the impact of the rest of the film. That is, if you have done even 5 minutes of research into what happened that night, rather than taking the word of a friend or family member who, understandably, found it difficult to accept that Sam could have acted in such a way. I am sure plenty of people will come away from this movie thinking there was some organized, insidious effort to "do away" with Sam, and that is a shame. Why can't we just accept that he was not a perfect guy, and he made an ill judged, fatal decision that night? No one is perfect, and stars of his caliber were and always will be exposed to many more temptations than the average person.
I will end this by quoting from an NPR interview, in which the author of "Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke", Peter Guralnick, says the following:
"Well, his death carried such reverberations within the black community. You know, it was, in a sense, so inexplicable and so sordid in its circumstances and so contrary to the image of Sam Cooke, and the result is that, I would say, within the community, there is not a single person who believes that Sam Cooke died as he is said to have died, killed by a motel owner at a cheap motel in Los Angeles called the Hacienda, which he had gone to with a prostitute named Elisa Boyer. I could have filled 100 pages of the book with an appendix on all the theories about his death.
The central tenet of every one of those theories is that this was a case of another proud black man brought down by the white establishment who simply didn't want to see him grow any bigger. I looked into this very carefully. I had access to the private investigator's report, which nobody has seen and which filled in a good many more details. And no evidence has ever been adduced to show--to prove any of these theories. But, you know, it's--the love that people felt for Sam Cooke, I think, is far more significant than the circumstances of his death. But in the research that I did and also all the people who were closest to him, I don't know anyone who doubts the official story, as much as they might wish that it were otherwise."
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