Blurry images of two impossibly handsome, incredibly talented young men . . . at the top of their game . . . just having a great time together. Possibly in 1960, maybe in 1964. If the latter, only a few months before Sam’s hideous death.
Sam Cooke was the first Black recording artist to figure it all out. He saw where the money was.
He understood why his fellow stars, such as his friend Jackie Wilson, made hit after hit without seeing the money they should be collecting.
Sam Cooke was one of the few not in the grip of the Mob because he was with the cleanest available outfit, RCA, was West-Coast based, and looked after his own interests from the point he left the gospel circuit to explode onto the pop music scene.
He wrote and published his own songs, so the Morris Levy types couldn’t take that huge chunk
of the profits from him. He began buying back his own masters from RCA, insuring he would eventually take in a healthy return on compilation albums. And in the early 1960s, he started his
own record company, SAR Records.
In 1964, Jackie Wilson was tortured (literally) into re-signing a contract with Brunswick/Tarnopol.
It’s a popular notion that Jackie wanted to go work at Motown, but I have never bought into that idea. I cannot see Jackie wanting to be under Berry Gordy’s thumb. My guess would be that he wanted to sign with his buddy Sam Cooke’s company.
And I think both the widely circulated story about Jackie’s torture (he was held outside an upper-story window) and the murder of Sam Cooke in December of that same year were acts meant to keep other entertainers in line.
The “official” story of Cooke’s death was obviously bunk. Killing Sam Cooke was a no-brainer for the Mob: they weren’t making any money off Sam anyway, and they needed to stop him before others got ideas about walking off the “plantation.”
Each time I watch the video of Jackie and Sam, I thank the Almighty for letting the good times roll that day for these fabulous talents . . . these great friends.