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Sam Cooke's Widow Barbara Wed Bobby Womack Only 3 Months after His Death — Their Messy Affair

Monica Otayza
Oct 19, 2021
07:00 A.M.

Sam Cooke's widow Barbara wed Bobby Womack just three months after his tragic death, and fans were not pleased. Here's what happened in their messy love affair.

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It shocked many when Sam Cooke died on December 11, 1964, after being shot in a motel. It was deemed a homicide after the motel's manager, Bertha Franklin, shot him in the chest after he threatened her life.

According to Franklin, Cooke attempted to rape a young woman with whom he checked into the hotel earlier. After he threatened her life, she acted in self-defense.

Left: Sam Cooke at New York's Copacabana nightclub, June 1964. Center: Barbara Campbell. Right: Bobby Womack at Riverside Studios, September 18, 1984  | Source: Getty Images

Left: Sam Cooke at New York's Copacabana nightclub, June 1964. Center: Barbara Campbell. Right: Bobby Womack at Riverside Studios, September 18, 1984 | Source: Getty Images

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MOURNING SAM COOKE'S DEATH

Despite the details of his case, over 200,000 fans walked the streets of Los Angeles and Chicago to mourn him. If there's one person who decided to move on quickly, though, it was his wife, Barbara.

Given Cooke's reputation of being a womanizer, it comes with no surprise that his wife was able to move on so quickly.

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THE BEGINNING OF HIS CAREER

Born in 1931 to a Baptist minister and his beloved wife, Cooke's musical career began in church. He started his professional career singing gospel songs before recording pop songs from the late 1950s to the 1960s.

Aside from being a singer, Cooke was known for being a talented songwriter who wrote his songs. He also created his own music publishing company and signed an impressive contract with RCA in 1960.

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MIXING BUSINESS AND PLEASURE

Cooke had ownership of his master recordings, a feat that not many recording artists could achieve at the time. He founded his own record label in the early 1960s and helped launch the careers of Billy Preston, Bobby Womack, and others.

In the end, Womack would end up being entangled in a messy love triangle with Cooke and his then-wife Barbara. Just three months after he was killed, Barbara married Womack.

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HIS WIFE MOVED ON

Given Cooke's reputation of being a womanizer, it comes with no surprise that his wife was able to move on so quickly despite the circumstances of his death. However, many were still against the fact that she was able to remarry quickly.

Barbara was the singer's teenage sweetheart, but she was only one of his many girlfriends. They share a daughter named Linda, whom she gave birth to when she was only 17. Three other women would go on to have daughters with the soul singer.

Sam Cooke (1931 – 1964), singer, songwriter and civil-rights activist, on stage with band at New York's Copacabana nightclub in June 1964. | Source: Getty Images

Sam Cooke (1931 – 1964), singer, songwriter and civil-rights activist, on stage with band at New York's Copacabana nightclub in June 1964. | Source: Getty Images

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BARBARA AND SAM'S RELATIONSHIP

Barbara and Cooke were married and divorced before marrying one another in Chicago in 1959. They lived in Los Angeles, where he lived his life while his wife fended for herself.

Because of her husband's constant philandering, Barbara went on to have several affairs of her own. On top of their loveless marriage, they suffered a tragedy when their third child, Vincent, died at 18 months old after drowning in their pool.

Sam Cooke (right), his wife Barbara Cooke and a man (perhaps their lawyer Walter Hurst) on November 30, 1960 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

Sam Cooke (right), his wife Barbara Cooke and a man (perhaps their lawyer Walter Hurst) on November 30, 1960 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

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MOVING ON WITH HER LIFE

Just a year later, Cooke was shot dead. At the time, Barbara was numb and still grieving her son's death. On top of that, she was humiliated by the circumstances surrounding her husband's killing.

At the time, she welcomed Womack into her life to protect her. She was 29 at the time, while he was 19. By 1965, she urged him to marry her.

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FROM WOMACK'S POINT OF VIEW

In Womack's biography published in 2006, he described her proposal as a scene out of "The Graduate." He admitted that he was a "dazed and disillusioned young man" who was "seduced by a friend of his parents."

Their marriage was met with disapproval by many people, especially when they would see Womack in Cooke's clothes or when they would see Barbara and Womack walking around together.

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RESULT OF THEIR WHIRLWIND AFFAIR

At one point in their relationship, they even received a package containing a baby doll in a coffin. When they were introduced at a concert, the crowds would openly boo them, too.

In the end, their relationship took a toll on Womack, which resulted in him using drugs, particularly cocaine, and starting a sexual relationship with Cooke's daughter, Linda.

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THE BEGINNING OF THE END

When Barbara found her daughter and Womack in bed, she shot him, with the bullet grazing his temple. She was not charged, and they divorced in 1970. Years later, Linda ended up marrying Womack's brother, Cecil.

They ended up becoming a recording duo titled "Womack & Womack." She then went by the named Zeriiya Zekkariyas, a nod to her African heritage.

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WOMACK'S DEATH

Barbara and Womack ended up having a son whom they named Vincent, named after her late son. Vincent struggled with drugs and alcohol, and he took his own life in 1986 at the age of 21. He had another son, Truth, who died when he was an infant.

In 2014, Womack died at the age of 70. Before his death, he admitted that he had not spoken to Barbara, Linda, or his brother Cecil in years. "No one speaks to no one," he said.

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BEVERLY CAMPBELL'S DEATH

Meanwhile, Barbara was born alongside her twin sister Beverly Campbell on August 10, 1935. Despite her complicated affair with Womack, she stood alongside Cooke's father when he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

In September 2021, it was reported that Barbara Campbell Cooke had died at the age of 85. She is survived by her two daughters, her twin sister Beverley, and a granddaughter.

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COOKE'S LEGACY

Meanwhile, Barbara's granddaughter with the late singer, Nicole, has been keeping her grandfather's legacy alive with the help of other celebrities. She and her grandfather's estate held a toast to bring together celebrities who were impacted by his music.

Some of those who took part in the ceremony included Jennifer Hudson, Regina King, Rod Stewart, and Leslie Jordan. In the end, Nicole was surprised by how so many celebrities took the initiative to join the event.

Cooke's music remains a symbol of hope for several generations, especially his song "A Change Is Gonna Come" which was an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement in the sixties. Now, it's a song that can be used in line with the Black Lives Matter movement.

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