Sam Cooke, with his gospel-influenced vocals, was one of the first soul superstars and arguably the greatest voice that soul music has ever produced. He blazed the trail for others to follow as he achieved massive success as a solo act who first began singing in the church. Cooke scored many chart-topping hits including “You Send Me,” “A Change Is Gonna Come,” “Wonderful World,” “Chain Gang,” “Twistin’ the Night Away,” and “Bring it on Home to Me.” The story of soul legend Sam Cooke is documented in a new documentary on Netflix entitled The Two Killings of Sam Cooke.
The documentary details the Cooke’s childhood as the son of a preacher in Chicago, his beginnings as a gospel singer with the renowned group the Soul Stirrers, his breakthrough success a solo artist, his militant business acumen, and the all of the unanswered questions that surround his death of over 50 years ago.
Writer/activist Kevin Powell giving commentary on the film noted, “Chicago is a place where people had to figure out how to hustle for themselves, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that someone like Sam Cooke would eventually say, ‘I’m going to own my own record label. I’m going to own my own publishing company.’ Because that’s what you saw in Chicago. You saw businesses everywhere, and I’m sure he was impacted by that.”
The film also chronicles Cooke’s, relationships with Muhammad Ali, NFL running back Jim Brown, and minister of the Nation of Islam Malcolm X — and an FBI informant who was taking note of it all.
Kelly Duane de la Vega director of the film says, “He was an incredible musical artist, but just as important was the way he contributed to the civil-rights movement and embodied the idea of an African-American artist having power in the record industry. It was a seedy end, and for some people, that’s where the conversation ended.”
You can check out the trailer below.