The Shooting Of Sam Cooke

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20141216

In December 1964, the King of Soul, Sam Cooke, checked into a sleazy, $3 motel in downtown L.A., allegedly having kidnapped a 'Eurasian' woman. Less than two hours later, he had been shot dead by the motel manager.

The court ruled it justifiable homicide, but 50 years later, suspicion still surrounds the events of that night. Witness statements contradict each other; the Eurasian woman was later arrested for prostitution; and intriguingly, many of Sam's effects, like the thousands of dollars he was seen to be carrying earlier that night, were never recovered.

Did The Mob lure him into a trap, using a prostitute? Was Sam's estranged wife involved somehow? Did a third party murder him for his royalties? Were the investigating detectives corrupt?

Such speculation overwhelms Sam's legacy as the pioneer of soul music, business entrepreneur and civil rights activist. With the help of a private detective, Dotun Adebayo examines the never-before-aired coroner's report, searching for signs of foul play, and scrutinises testimonials. He interviews key witnesses, like Grammy-winning record producer Al Schmitt, who was the last person to see Sam alive, and speaks to Sam's living relatives.

Dotun takes a magnifying glass to the events of that fateful night, with the intent to unravel what really happened.

A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 2. Produced by Graihagh Jackson.