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ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke Movie Poster Image
Comprehensive docu on iconic soul singer; some cursing.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 74 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The power of music to effect change in society. How personal conviction and integrity can create positive change in society. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Through his music and personal integrity in business, Sam Cooke took a stand against segregation and the Jim Crow laws of the South, and was an active participant in the civil rights movement, despite threats of violence. 

Violence

News footage of violence during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Photograph of KKK member in his car holding a noose. Talk of the shooting death of Sam Cooke. Viewers see the wreckage of a synagogue bombed by white supremacists, and the body of Emmet Till, a 14-year-old African American who was brutally beaten to death by whites in Mississippi.

Sex

Mention made of how Sam Cooke was considered by some to be a "womanizer." Talk of prostitution.

Language

Some profanity. "N" word used several times. "F--k" used twice. "S--t," "bulls--t," "damn," "a--hole," "hell." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Photos of people drinking in bars. Talk of drinking in bars. Talk of how performers in the 1950s would be paid by unscrupulous promoters not in money but in cocaine. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke is a 2019 documentary that explores the mysterious circumstances surrounding the murder of the iconic soul singer. There's some profanity, including the "N" word and "f--k." There is violent news footage from the civil rights movement, including shots of a KKK member holding a noose, the wreckage of a synagogue bombed by white supremacists, and the body of Emmet Till, a 14-year-old African American who was brutally beaten to death by whites in Mississippi. Talk of prostitution. Talk of how musicians in the 1950s were conned out of money by unscrupulous promoters and paid instead in cocaine. Overall, the documentary is a comprehensive look at the circumstances surrounding Cooke's murder, and his growing involvement in the civil rights movement before he was killed. Cooke is shown to be as savvy of a businessman as he was a gifted singer, and families can talk about his bravery in standing up for what he believed in, especially during a time of blatant discrimination and segregation. 

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What's the story?

In the early years of rock and roll, Sam Cooke was a rising star on the gospel circuit, emerging from Chicago. He would soon switch to popular music, and attained meteoric success, with a large fan base that encompassed both African Americans and whites, despite the segregation of 1950s society and of the music industry. He was as savvy a businessman as he was an unforgettable performer, starting his own record label and music publishing company at a time when African American musicians were routinely ripped off by unscrupulous record labels and promoters. Cooke was also a man of deep conviction who refused to play in segregated concert halls in the South, and used his music and celebrity as a way to lift up fellow African Americans. In the 1960s, he befriended Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, and his activism in civil rights continued to grow. Cooke was a target of FBI surveillance, and his record label was starting to grow more alarmed at his activism in the months leading to his mysterious shooting death in 1964 in a seedy motel in Los Angeles. REMASTERED: THE TWO KILLINGS OF SAM COOKE  takes a comprehensive look at the theories surrounding the cause of Cooke's death, how institutional racism was a factor in the case, and the continuing legacy of Cooke, as both an influential artist and a pioneer for civil rights. 

Is it any good?

This documentary s a comprehensive look at the mysterious circumstances surrounding the shooting death of the iconic soul singer in 1964. It traces Cooke's origins as a gospel singer from Chicago to his meteoric rise as a popular singer who stood up to segregation and racism and was starting to emerge as a leader in the growing civil rights movement. His career is thoroughly explored and placed in the context of the times in which he was a star performer. 

Like the other documentaries in the ReMastered series, no stone is unturned in exploring not only Cooke's murder, but also how the sociocultural tenor of the times played into why Cooke's murder was not thoroughly investigated at the time by the LAPD, and how such institutional racism persists to this day. More than simply a typical basic-cable exploitative surface-level look at "true crime," ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke is as much a history lesson on a time and place in America as it is a music history lesson. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about music documentaries. How does ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke compare to other music documentaries you've seen? 

  • How does the documentary use the history of the 1950s and '60s to provide a backdrop for Cooke's life and career and the mysterious circumstances surrounding his murder? 

  • What did you learn about Sam Cooke? How could you learn more about him?

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