Bad Night at the Hacienda Motel
December 11, 1964 - It was on this evening that Sam Cooke, the King of Soul, was shot dead in a seedy Los Angeles motel.
Bertha Franklin, the motel manager, claims that Cooke had stormed into her office while wearing only a sport jacket and shoes. Apparently he was trying to find a woman who had run from his room, and he believed Franklin knew where she was. According to Franklin, Cooke physically assaulted her before she was able to retrieve a gun and shoot him in the torso. His last words were, "Lady, you shot me."
Police identified the woman Cooke was looking for as Elisa Boyer. She had spent most of the evening with Cooke, and claimed he was about to rape her when she fled from his room. On the way out she grabbed a pile of clothes that included the singer-songwriter's pants.
An alternate theory is that Boyer was attempting to rob Cooke. In the end, the shooting was ruled a justifiable homicide.
The tragedy cut short a stellar career. In his final eight years Cooke tallied 29 Top-40 hits, including classics like "Another Saturday Night," "Chain Gang," and "Wonderful World." One of his most famous releases, "A Change is Gonna Come," was penned by Cooke in 1963 after he attended a meeting with sit-in demonstrators in Durham, North Carolina. The song deals with two major episodes in Cooke's life. First was the accidental drowning death of his 18-month old son, and second was the time Cooke and his band were arrested for disturbing the peace in Shreveport, Louisiana when they attempted to register at a "whites only" motel.
There have been times that I thought I couldn't last for long / but now I think I'm able to carry on / It's been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.
The song became an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement and it is often included on various lists of the greatest songs of all time.