Features — 13 July 2019 — by Charles X, dedicated to the memory of my brother, Migale.
“Cut that nigger down!!”

“Let’s recall some great men…”  (Burning Spear)
Some reflections after viewing the Netflix movie, “The Two Killings of Sam Cooke.”

Thurs. July 11, Wed. June 19, 2019, Thurs. May 16, 2019
Are you a lover of music?

Who’s the greatest, besides Jah?

Can there be a guy so cool, so smooth, with a voice so golden, and a style so unique, so refreshing, so beautiful, and a charm so irresistible that other guys are spellbound with jealous admiration, and girls, both black and white, just go crazy!!?

Now, we’re talking early 1960’s, before Cassius Clay became heavyweight champion and changed his name to Muhammad Ali; and Malcolm X was still alive and breathing fire into the brains of racist white bigots across America, especially in the south.

The civil rights struggle is in full swing, and radical “white boy” Bob Dylan had sung, “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
“Black Power” was just beginning to rise, and freedom was in the air.

It was a time when boxers made little money in the system controlled by “the mob,” and musicians/artists also had to “know their place,” where the white Mafia controlled the industry, and owned the rights to black artists’ creations.  “Keep those niggers in their place,” is/was the silent song of “white supremacy.”  Who will rock their boat, and live?

The velvet voice and masterful delivery of Nat King Cole will forever be an inspiration to musicians and singers of all races and ages. Nat made some milestones, and made black people proud. His dignity and poise and enormous talent will forever inspire music lovers of all generations.

But there was trouble on the horizon; and a young lion was forging a new direction in the developing music of the people – from the blues, to gospel, to rock’n roll, whatever, whatever… this rising superstar, once beloved in the gospel circuit, and adored across racial boundaries when he stepped into mainstream popular music, the one Sam Cooke was spearheading a new trend… and from his gospel roots, the term that seemed to stick to this new musical genre was called “soul.”  He had been lead singer for some years with the gospel group, “The Soul Stirrers,” so maybe that had something to do with the fact that most music pundits assign him the title of “Father of Soul Music.”  Whatever the reason, by the early 1960’s, the black community looked to Sam Cooke as “the man on the spot” to respond with a black artist’s production to capture the tenor of the times and match the masterpiece of the talented white artist Bob Dylan, whose “Blowin’ in the Wind” so aptly expressed the mood of the turbulent times. And Sam delivered, “A Change is Gonna Come,” which was his last big hit before his passing only a few months later at 33 years of age on December 11, 1964; but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Malcolm X was “telling it like it is,” and ruffling the feathers of white power across the nation.  His message was considered incendiary to docile black people, and the powers that be wished him silenced. After he parted ways with the Nation of Islam, his isolation made him more vulnerable. When you touched a leading Muslim member of the Nation, there was a considered risk of  repercussions from the Fruit of Islam. But again, we are ahead of ourselves. We’re talking about when Malcolm X was still very much alive, and an outstanding figure in black America.

Then there was this brash, talented young kid, reciting poetry and fulfilling knockout predictions, and shouting to the world that, “I am the greatest!”, in his quest to become heavyweight champion of the world. Cassius Clay was a radio and television news item even before he won the title on February 25, 1964. He was excitement and entertainment in the sporting arena. And he was talent personified, following a 1960 Olympic Gold Medal with a string of victories after he turned pro, predicting with uncanny accuracy the round when his opponents “would fall.” This was indeed “Show Time,” manufactured by the athletic excellence and creative genius of this young black man. Again, we are at a time before he changed his name to Muhammad Ali, and before he refused to go to Vietnam, and was stripped of his title. We’re in the early 1960’s, and this outspoken and “braggadoshio” young talent was constantly in the headlines of radio and television sports reports. Before his first fight for the title with champion Sonny Liston, we even heard him all the way in Belize, on AFRTS or VOA? radio reciting poetry about “the eclipse of the Sonny!”

What a time! What a way! Malcolm X talking “by any means necessary;” young, black Cassius Clay shouting “I am the greatest!”, and about to declare in the ring after his victory, “I shook up the world… I’m a baaad man!” Dammit! That’s a whole lot for black people to feel proud about.  Besides, there was Jim Brown, the outspoken superstar black running back of NFL champions, the Cleveland Browns, talking about walking away from football at the peak of his athletic prowess.

And then, there is this ravishingly handsome, golden voiced and charming musical talent, who is apparently on top of the musical world, though not widely known to be “giving any trouble.”  But in his own way, this Sam Cooke was determined to let the world know that he was at the top of his game in music. In what some big people might view as an “uppity nigger” move, Sam had insisted on a major advertisement placard to announce his July, 1964 appearance for a solo concert at New York City’s famous Copa Cabana Hotel. According to reports, he designed the wording himself, for the massive billboard sign in the heart of town that read, “Sam’s the biggest Cooke in town!” Knowing his value, and after the show, which was audio/visually recorded, was a big hit, some reports state that Sam ignored the promoters’ request for him to pay the $10,000.00 month’s rental charge for the billboard. In his own way, Sam was challenging the system. But fans didn’t know about that.

The truth cannot remain hidden forever, no matter how hard “big” people may try to hide it. It is over 50 years later, but it is now being revealed that Sam Cooke, artist par excellence, was indeed challenging and angering “the system.” Ahead of his time, he was about starting his own record company, with his own label and rights to his own music. Moreover, he was about signing promising young black artists to his label and securing them with rights to their music. Sam had learned the industry, which basically exploited artists, and was embarking on a road to control of his own destiny, and providing protection for other black artists to secure their rights and benefits from their music that heretofore was the territory of “big people,” the music Mafia.

But fans didn’t know all this. And the “gospel” community had already pretty much disowned their hero after he had chosen “the path of evil” in moving from gospel music in church only, to singing and performing popular music at “heathen” night clubs and dance halls, and recording non-religious songs for money in the recording business. Like “the Nation” had disowned Malcolm and made him vulnerable; the religious community of “gospel” had apparently distanced themselves from their former idol, and this may have made him more vulnerable.

So, Sam Cooke was the singular individual artist with big plans and dreams for himself, but also for his people. He didn’t leave them behind. Check the stats. (The Netflix movie reveals a lot.) Sam was secretly battling to conquer the system of exploitation entrenched in a world of “white supremacy” and the Mafia. For that, he was dangerous. And, like Malcolm, he was alone and vulnerable. Looking at the obvious and glaring loopholes in the official story on Sam’s death, one can’t help but suspect that somebody big in the music business, with complicity from the “system” of “white power,” gave the order to “cut that nigger down.”

Looking back now, it was indeed an astonishing convergence of “black power” on the night of Clay’s great triumph on February 25, 1964, when he chose to celebrate in a hotel room with three friends – Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown. Consider that – four of the then most popular and influential young black men in their own right, at a time when the civil rights movement was gathering momentum, and “white power” was bracing to stop the rising tide of “black power.” For sure, this meeting was noted by agents of the CIA, FBI, L.A. Police Department, and others.

Malcolm X was already separated from the Nation of Islam due to a misunderstanding; and, without their protection, and perhaps their collusion, he knew his days were numbered. He said so in his, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” which was released a few months after his assassination in February, 1965. Malcolm X was vulnerable to an assassin’s bullet, and he knew that.

His brashness brought him enemies, especially after joining the Nation of Islam through the influence of Malcolm X; but Muhammad Ali chose to stay with the Nation, and that perhaps worked in his favor, as he survived, despite many trials and tribulations, to live to an old age.

And Jim Brown, the superstar athlete and out-spoken community activist was considering a new career in the film industry, which has its own hierarchy and protections, if one “keeps in his place.” Still, Jim Brown was Jim Brown, and everybody knew that that brother “don’t take no mess.” He is still with us; give thanks.

But, what about Sam Cooke? What had Sam ever done or said publicly to make him a possible subject of assassination by the “system?” There was apparently not much; except perhaps a few run-ins with promoters and hotel owners because of his bold individual stance against racism in the entertainment industry. Sam was loved by all – the ultimate showman and disarming talent.  A singer of love songs, and a friend to all, black and white. Who would want to hurt or kill our idol, Sam Cooke? For Sam Cooke was an idol of many, including the man who many considered his successor to the title of King of Soul – the legendary Otis Redding; who, incidentally, reigned very briefly, before a mysterious plane crash ended his too brief reign in 1967.

After conquering “the Copa,” and all that he had already done on the music scene, how do you kill Sam Cooke, the Father of Soul, and not create a serious backlash in the black community?  But Sam had become a problem; though he obviously never realized the lengths the “powers that be” would go to stop him. Sam brazenly stood up to the powers that controlled the music industry, the Music Mafia; and they decided to stop him. That is the feeling one gets from the information revealed in the movie and on the internet.

   The murder of Sam Cooke on December 11, 1964 was a mystery for so many decades, because it was planned that way. It couldn’t be allowed for black people in America to know that it was “the system” that decided to kill Sam; because maybe the ghetto would explode. Instead, the official story placed him with a prostitute in a cheap motel, and getting shot by the female motel manager in self defence.  Indeed, in ensuing years, after the murders of Malcolm in 1965, and then Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, the black ghetto did instinctively put the pieces together, and exploded in riots across the country.

But, the “system” had planned the killing and also the cover-up alibi for the death of Sam Cooke. So, they planned it to look a certain way, that made him look bad. They planned to kill him, and also to destroy his image, beloved as he had been in the black and music community.

How do you know when something like this is planned? When there is absolutely no effort to find the truth. Review the case file and news reports about the case. (Google “Sam Cooke” and it is all there.) It was an abomination! Sam was no back street hoodlum; but he might well have been, so callously was the case handled. Take a look back, if you think a black brother who was fighting for his people, utilizing his enormous talent and challenging the system, deserves your interest and concern for his legacy.

Muhammad Ali once said that Sam Cooke, his friend, was the greatest singer ever; while he, Muhammad Ali was the greatest boxer. An older brother, Malcolm X, was a mentor to both of them. And they were also good friends with another black icon, Jim Brown. Just think about that for a bit. That is really “four the hard way,” and reason enough for “white power” to take note, and to act. But you can’t keep a good man down. Malcolm’s spirit lives; and Sam’s spirit will rise to recognition of the truth among fans in generations to come. His heart will keep on singing.

P.S.  Just Google “Sam Cooke” and you will get all the information you need, including the 2019 Netflix production, “The two killings of Sam Cooke.”  Below is the introductory paragraph of Wikipedia’s description of Sam Cooke:

Sam Cooke – Wikipedia

Samuel Cook (January 22, 1931 – December 11, 1964), known professionally as Sam Cooke, was an American singer, songwriter, civil-rights activist and entrepreneur. Influential as both a singer and composer, he is commonly known as the King of Soul for his distinctive vocals and importance within popular music…

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