SAM COOKE, ALI and MALCOLM X: Don’t Know Much About History

If all goes well, I’ll get a chance to interview the legendary Smokin’ Joe Frazier this week. Frazier defeated Ali in what was called the Fight of the Century in 1971—an astounding sports spectacle of mythological proportions exploding out of the 1960s (Ali defeated Joe in their next two slugfests).

And after that, hopefully I’ll get to interview the inimitable two-time World Heavyweight Champion (some twenty years apart!), Big George Foreman, who lost to Ali in the insurpassable Rumble in the Jungle, in 1974—a fight that propelled Ali to mythological heights.

What a fantastic week—and what a great journey it’s been thus far. I am looking forward to seeing how it unfolds; to try and get their insights, reflections, passions and current dreams.

Here’s a cool excerpt from a Sam Cooke documentary, showing where his life intersected with both Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X’s lives, at a remarkable period in history.

Both Malcolm and Sam were ringside at Cassius Clay’s (Ali’s) first fight against Heavyweight Champion and invincible foe Sonny Liston. It was February 25, 1964, and Ali shook up the world both in the fight, and with his announcement the next day that he had joined the Nation of Islam under the teaching og the Honorable Elijah Muhammad (see the last blog).

Malcolm was just about to break from that same Nation of Islam, and with Ali (or Ali with him). Malcolm would be murdered just under a year later.

Even less than a year later, December of 1964, Sam Cooke would also be murdered—both leaving great influence in their respective areas of fame.

Lots of love to you,



8 Responses to “SAM COOKE, ALI and MALCOLM X: Don’t Know Much About History”

  1. Sam's Neph says:

    Adding to your “piece of history”…

    The night Ali defeated Liston in February of 1964, a group of black celebs met in Ali’s hotel room. Powerful minds such as Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown were present, along with Sam Moore from Sam and Dave. It didn’t come out until years later, but the Feds had the room bugged.

    Ali and Sam were good friends, as is evident in their “joint venture.” Ali was uncharacteristically giddy in their “The Gang’s All Here” video!

    Erik Greene
    Author, “Our Uncle Sam: The Sam Cooke Story From His Family’s Perspective”

  2. Thanks, Erik, for that great tidbit—and thanks for the link. Boy, the feds were busy, huh? It’s interesting, Noam Chomsky always says that Watergate wasn’t even remotely as significant a crime as the endless wire-tapping and letter-openings of hundreds of thousands of civilians, maximized in COINTELPR, or Counter Intelligence Program.

    It always amazes me, and America often forgets, that Martin Luther King was public enemy #1, according to ol’ J Edgar Hoover.

    For the record, I always loved Sam Cooke’s music, growing up in Canada. He just had it goin’ on.

    I mean this with no disrespect, but do you feel there is any credibility to alternate theories or knowledge on Sam’s murder? Such an intense time in America—although it’s pretty intense now, too. Whatever the reasons or facts, so tragic. What a remarkable talent, and the friendship between and Sam and Cassius (at that time) is so obvious.

    All the best and good love to you and the Cooke family,


  3. Sam's Neph says:

    One of the reason I wrote “Our Uncle Sam” is because my family never accepted the “facts” surrounding Sam’s death. From a journalistic standpoint, it’s hard to argue from a “this totally went against Sam’s nature” approach, yet the story was so full of inconsistencies, it became apparent there was much more than met the eye. I just didn’t know what.

    After the first edition of my book came out, there were private parties who approached me about things that were happening behind the scenes. The rewritten version, which is currently on as well as my website, contains info regarding his death and his business dealings that is news to even the most die-hard “Cookie.”

    So to answer you question Pete, yes. It took years of research and several thousand dollars, but I think I’ve pieced together a more plausible reason to his demise than had been previously reported. It saddened me even more to come to this conclusion, because it seems Sam died a hero instead of dying in shame as previously reported. His is truly a remarkable story.

    Thanks for letting me rant!

    Erik Greene
    “Sam’s Neph”

  4. Wayne Gathers says:

    I would like to have a little more knowledge into his death…I would like to know where in amazon could I read that info…In addition to Malcolm X and Sam Cooke meeting, I read in Benjamin Karim’s book “Remembering Malcolm” {f.k.a. Benjamin Goodman} that Malcolm & Sam Meant before the clay vs liston fight in miami…this was during the time that kennedy was shot…I believe it was sam & james brown along w/ some other acts that were performing at the apollo in harlem & clay was backstage at the time when the report came through that kennedy was shot & they cancelled the entire show…having no where to go {If I am not mistaken, all air flights going in and out of the country were delayed because of the assasination} it was clay who recommened the thersa hotel that sam could rent for the night & that malcolm could get them a room…I read that the 3 spent all night talking about the assasination, but that info is left out entirely…perhaps, a little research on that might shed some light on sam’s relationship w/ malcolm & clay [ali]

  5. Willie Anderson says:

    I have read your book about your great uncle Sam Cooke before and at the end of your book about his death made me come to a strong conclusion that my boyhood singing inspiration death was a setup by ways that was not fully told the way they said it happen and that my childhood imitator was killed by some white authorities at that time and those who knew the truth about his death even in police uniforms and Bertha franklin and Lisa Boyer was added just to cover them up! your book give me more insight about that, I do not hate nobody but I do not love racism and I will not have racist friends I hate prejudice words and will not have racist inlaws that is why I have very Strongly Change my mind about all other women from other races because I have experience racism on my jobs and I have experience discrimination on my job for some years now and the other races always got the upper hand and kept their jobs and I being black lost mine and because of your enlighten me more on racism was back then and still here now I never want other women from another race again do not get me wrong they say what they want about me and other blacks with them but they have not had it done to them like me and after all I tried to give our black women Up and I just could not they are still More Beautiful than all others to me any way and They smell better to Me Too! Please excuse me Wow He He HaHa. God Bless and Peace to you Always! BRO. Willie

  6. sam northway says:

    sam cooke, legend of all myths. sam made a change possible in sanitiy and despire and didnt only require a break down he made people feel his pain through the beautiful soul he sang.

  7. Dave slipnpitch says:

    It would be amazing to hear the FBI recordings of Ali and Sam, Malcolm X post Sonny Liston fight. I hope one day they are released if they exist. As a Sam Cooke fan I’d love to hear some of the more regular facts about Sam Cooke. What music did he listen to to enjoy? What was his favourite food and drink? Did he play a sport? Such a shame Sam and Malcolm X both died so soon together and early in their lives.

  8. Kenneth Parrish says:

    I have NEVER heard Sam’s two brothers,arguably the closest family to him at the time ,mentioning murder conspiracies regarding his oh so sad and untimely death.Both Charles and LC did not seem particularly shocked or astonished at the way SOME of the story as described, particularly Sam being where he was or some of what was told.LC has said Sam was never embarrassed nor afraid of going back and forth from areas from whence he came or forgetting friends that did not usually go up on Sunset to have some fun.He said ” I don’t need no bodyguards.People love me… But you know… ”
    Shit happens! My quote. I don’t accept the whole story as it was told.Particularly since Sam could never relate his side of the story.And as it came out later,this Elisa Boyer was a HOLLYWOOD HO’.With aspirations in ‘ modeling & entertainment.And though not white,she certainly wasn’t colored. As polite society would label at the time.Perhaps she may have been a bit condescending and prone to embroidery of her station in life. And Sam decides to give her a ride down to FIGUEROA to show her she wasn’t no different than a ‘colored’ FIGUEROA Ho’!
    And he gets beat , rooked & took for his bank. And goes to Bertha Franklin who possibly laughs and clowns his “business acumen”, showing little or no sympathy at my predicument. I can see it , yes I am certifiably pissed! And momentarily forget where I am and the sort of people I’m dealing with.
    Lady, I am Sam Cooke! So fu**in what! You just another trick that got beat whom I got to put in check right now!
    Again , over 50 years later,how can we ever know?
    Only that Sam Cooke is yours.He’ll be young forever.

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