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Soul Singers Who Left Us Way Too Soon

Updated on January 3, 2015


It is tragic when anyone is taken from us too soon on this earth. It is especially true of some great entertainers who gave the world such pleasure from their songs. Here are a few performers from the Soul category that met with early demises just as they were beginning to enjoy success or make a comeback.

Sam Cooke- He was a singer of rhythm and blues, but he also had a pop sound that attracted black and white audiences. Sam had a great number of hits in his life with songs like, You Send Me, Cupid, Chain Gang, Another Saturday Night, and Twistin The Night Away. He was given the title the King of Soul because of his vocal abilities and what he contributed to the modern world of music. Sam was more than just a singer he was also interested in the business side of music he founded a record label and a publishing company. He also was a songwriter who wrote almost all his own songs.

The day Sam Cooke died it was early December 1964. Sam was basking in his success. He had a string of hit songs, he was married to his wife Barbara, and he owned a $15,000 Ferrari convertible, and lived in a Hollywood mansion. Not bad for a guy who was born in humble beginnings in Clarksville, Mississippi. He grew up in Chicago and his father was a reverend.

Everyone has a weakness and Sam’s weakness was for the ladies. At the age of twenty-two he had three pregnant girlfriends. On his last night he was going to an Italian restaurant in off Sunset Boulevard. It was there that he spotted a young lady named Eliza Boyer. She was a party girl and she knew who Sam Cooke was. They left the restaurant to go to PJ’s a club that played live music. Around 2 am they left the club to go to the Hacienda motel. It was $3 a night rental. Sam at this time was feeling no pain having been drinking all night. Eliza claimed that Sam was trying to take off her clothes and wouldn’t listen when she said to stop. She tried to escape through a bathroom window but it was locked. When Sam went into the bathroom she ran out with his wallet and most of his clothes. Sam was outraged and went to the front office thinking Eliza when there. He spoke the lady at the front desk demanding to know where the girl was. She said she didn’t know. Sam didn’t believe her and forced his way through the door wearing only a sports coat and shoes. The lady at the front desk was fifty-five and Sam was thirty-three she felt in fear of her life. When she could break free of him she shot him three times once in the heart. Sam said “Lady you shot me.” When she saw he was still alive at one point she started hitting him with a broom handle. Sam died a senseless death one that could have been prevented with a little self-control. Sam Cooke’s legacy though lives on through his great performances and his wonderful songs. Who knows what other things he could have accomplished with a little more time on this earth.

Otis Redding- Otis like Sam Cooke was a singer, songwriter, and he was also a talent scout and record producer. Otis was influenced by Sam Cooke and he also liked the style of the Beatles and Bob Dylan. He was also named the King of Soul a title that was bestowed on Sam Cooke and James Brown. Otis enjoyed success with his songs These Arms of Mine and Respect. He bought himself a 300 acre ranch in his state of Georgia and was married to a girl he met when he was twenty-two and she was fifteen.

In 1967 he recorded the song Sitting On The Dock of the Bay. He wanted a sound like the Beatles Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Heartsclub Band. His wife didn’t like the sound of it and the producers of the Staxx label where he recorded didn’t really care for it either. In 1967 Otis and his band where traveling playing concerts that began in Nashville and then went to Wisconsin. It was there that they were to play the University of Wisconsin. Otis and his band were flying in a Beachcraft H18. The weather was fogging and there was heavy rain, but for some reason the plane decided to take off. They were just four miles from their destination when the plane crashed into lake Monona. Otis died just three days after recording Sitting On The Dock of the Bay. He was twenty-six years old.The song was released in 1968 and it was his only single to reach number one. It sold 4 million copies worldwide.

Otis was just beginning to enjoy great success when fate out of his control intervened. He left behind and wife and three kids. The world is lucky to have his recordings to listen to and enjoy for years to come.

Marvin Gaye- He was the voice of Motown with hits like How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You, I Heard It Through The Grapevine and What’s Going On. His father was a minister and his mom a housewife. Gaye had success through the 1960’s, but during the 1970’s he developed a dependence on cocaine and he was also having troubles with the IRS that had him moving to Maui. He then moved to London afraid of being put in prison for back taxes. In 1981 he moved to Belgium where he got off the drugs, began exercising and was determined to make a comeback on the music scene. He recorded the album Midnight Love with the hit song Sexual Healing. This song would stay on the rhythm and blues charts at number one for 10 weeks. By 1983 Marvin was getting back into the cocaine and decided to move back into his parent’s house in Los Angeles.

Marvin and his father had an edgy relationship. When Marvin returned home his father was drinking and Marvin was still doing cocaine. On the day of his death Marvin’s dad was upset with his wife about an insurance policy he couldn’t find and kept yelling at his wife. Marvin got mad and said that if he wanted to talk to her he should be face to face. Marvin’s dad then entered Marvin’s bedroom where his mom was also and then it started. Marvin had collection of guns and for some reason he had given his father a gun too. When Marvin’s dad confronted him Marvin pushed his father down into the hallway and kicked him. Marvin Sr. had told his daughter that if he ever touches me I will kill him and he was true to his word. Marvin’s mom broke up the fight and she and Marvin returned to the bedroom. Marvin’s dad returned to the room with a gun and fired it hitting Marvin in the chest. He shot him a second time but it wasn’t really necessary. Marvin was rushed to a California hospital but it was too late Marvin was dead at the age of 45. In a sad statement someone asked Marvin Sr. if he loved his son and he stated “Let’s say that I didn’t dislike him.”

Marvin had 200 songs recorded and out of them sixty-six were Billboard hits. In 1987 he was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

It is a shame he didn’t live to see the induction and that he didn’t live to possibly see himself get out of the debt he had accumulated. He had such a smooth and rich sound to his voice it would have been interesting to see what he would have been recording today.

Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye, had only brief stays in this world, but they left their mark by recording wonderful songs that will last an eternity.

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      This was a great review of some soul favorites. I really enjoyed Marvin Gaye. RIP.

    • cfjots profile image
      Author

      cfjots 3 years ago from Conway, SC

      Thank you FlourishAnway for your comments. I remember when Marvin Gaye came out with his last album and how everyone thought it was a good comeback record. He had a great voice.

    • Helena Ricketts profile image

      Helena Ricketts 3 years ago from Indiana

      Nice hub! I like all three of these artists. Such a tragedy that they all died so young.

    • cfjots profile image
      Author

      cfjots 3 years ago from Conway, SC

      Thank you Helena for your comments. They all had a unique sound. I would have liked to have what would have recorded today had they lived a little longer

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