All Rise Films/Triage Entertainment/Netflix
Directed by Kelly Duane De La Vega
Written and Created by Jeff Zimbalist & Michael Zimbalist
Produced by Max Landes
Edited by Inbal B. Lessner/Katrina Taylor
I’ve been told I have excellent taste in music. If so, I have to credit that to my parents, Leroy and Corine Ferguson who both loved music and exposed me to the music they loved and instilled in me not only a love and respect for that music but also for the life and sacrifices of the artists that made that music. I do remember as a young boy listening in on their conversations as they talked about their favorite singers and I do remember them speculating on the circumstances surrounding the shockingly horrific murder of Sam Cooke.
Sam Cooke was played a lot in the Brooklyn housing apartment where I grew up. To this day, “Chain Gang” is my favorite Singing In The Shower song. As my father would say, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket but that doesn’t stop me from singing along with “Chain Gang” every time I hear it on the radio. So I was familiar with Sam Cooke strictly as a powerful and enduring influence on Soul and R&B music. I recently watched the Netflix ReMastered documentary THE TWO KILLINGS OF SAM COOKE and it left me limp from amazement at how much I did not know about this extraordinary man and how much of an influence he had not only on the music industry but also as a civil rights activist.
I had no idea he had such a close relationship with Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown, forming a coalition of Black Power that came under extremely close scrutiny by The FBI that obviously saw such an alliance of black men with extraordinary power and influence for that time as a threat. While watching Jim Brown speak about his relationship with those three men it was not lost on me that Jim Brown is the only one we still have with us.
Sam Cooke parlayed his remarkable singing talent and natural charisma into not only an amazing career in which he was embraced by both black and white but also into the realm of business. Sam Cooke was partnered in a recording label/publishing company that gave unprecedented opportunities to black artists by allowing them to own their own music, a business practice unheard of at the time. Sam Cooke used his crossover status in such a way that he was able to be a powerhouse in the recording industry and in the rise of the civil rights movement.
The documentary makes a strong case as to the mystery surrounding Sam Cooke’s death which is why it’s titled THE TWO KILLINGS OF SAM COOKE because the seedy sordidness of his murder overshadowed the immense contributions he made to the music industry not just with his amazing voice but with his innovations in business practices and his involvement in the civil rights movement of the era.
Which is why I’m Highly Recommending this documentary. There’s a wealth of information here that I did not know about Sam Cooke and I’m glad that I now know it because it’s inspired me to delve deeper into what Sam Cooke meant to the civil rights movement and to black people now and then. The interviews with Quincy Jones, Jim Brown and others who knew Sam Cooke personally and honor his contributions give the story a power and weight that only truth from the heart can express. THE TWO KILLINGS OF SAM COOKE is now available for streaming on Netflix and you should definitely put it on your Must Watch List.