Is Sam Cooke’s Family on Board for His Upcoming Biopic?

By Sameer Rao Mar 23, 2016

A new biopic about pioneering soul singer Sam Cooke pledges to focus on the untold story of his suspicious murder. But are Cooke’s family and estate involved? 

A story from The Hollywood Reporter (THR) illuminates the division between members of Cooke’s family when it comes to the movie, "Sam Cooke: The Truth." Described by producer Romeo Antonio as a "murder mystery," the film will explore the controversy surrounding the singer’s 1964 death at a Los Angeles motel. Authorities ruled it a justifiable homicide, centering on accounts from a woman who claimed Cooke kidnapped her and the motel’s manager who shot Cooke after he burst into her office. Cooke’s family disputes the official record, and many suspect he was targeted for making songs that scored the Civil Rights Movement, like "A Change is Gonna Come."

"For years, people have been coming at us to do a movie about Sam. But [Antonio] was the first person who sounded like he wanted what we wanted: the truth to come out about my uncle and his death," said Eugene Jamison, Cooke’s nephew. THR reports that Jamison and his brother L.C. Cooke are official consultants on the movie.

ABKCO, the company started by Cooke’s manager that holds much of the singer’s music rights, disputed the validity of Jamison’s claim in a statement to THR: "ABKCO Films is the only company authorized by Sam Cooke’s widow and surviving siblings to produce a biopic of Sam Cooke’s life." The company is working on its own film, based on the biography "Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke."

Meanwhile, L.C. Cooke also disavowed the Antonio-produced film, saying, "Reports that I am involved with or have endorsed any Sam Cooke film biography other than the one that ABKCO Films is producing are totally false. I have been working with ABKCO for many years and am looking forward to bringing Sam’s story to the public in the near future."

Antonio fought back, telling THR, "Saying ‘the family and siblings’ is 100% incorrect! Brother David, Phyllis (Cooke’s sister) and Eugene completely back my movie!"

(H/t The Hollywood Reporter, The RootAssociated Press)