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Here's Where Five Soul Legends Are Buried in L.A.

Here's Where Five Soul Legends Are Buried in L.A.
L.A. Weekly file photo

While many of the most impassioned voices and funkiest rhythm sections made their names in cities like Memphis, New Orleans, and Detroit, more than a few talents were eventually lured to Los Angeles, be it by sizable record contracts or humidity-free summers.

And now, whether intentional or not, many of these soul legends are spending eternity here. Some of the five artists below were cut down in their prime, while others enjoyed long, productive careers. Only one was actually born here.

See also: Here's Where Five Jazz Legends Are Buried in L.A.

Sam Cooke
Buried In: Forest Lawn, Glendale

Sam Cooke was one of the first to leap from gospel to soul star. He had 30 songs reach the top 40, including "You Send Me" and the posthumously released "A Change Is Gonna Come." He was shot to death at the age of 33 by the manager of the Hacienda Motel at 9137 South Figueroa, in a strange incident that is still shrouded in conspiracy theories.

He is buried in a private garden area of Forest Lawn. In an unrelated turn of events, five years after his burial, an enormous mosaic of the signing of the Declaration of Independence was placed by the entrance complete with speakers playing classical music from the bushes.

Billy Preston says goodbye in B minor.EXPAND
Billy Preston says goodbye in B minor.
SJ O'Connell

Billy Preston
Buried In: Inglewood Park Cemetery

Preston was a pre-teen organ prodigy in the gospel world before joining Little Richard's band at age16. He went on to play with Ray Charles and the aforementioned Sam Cooke. In 1969, he became the fifth Beatle, contributing keyboards to "Get Back" and appearing at the band's famous rooftop concert. He had numerous hits in the 1970s, including "Nothing From Nothing" and a cover of George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord." He is buried on the south end of Inglewood Park Cemetery within view of the newly reopened Forum.

Here's Where Five Soul Legends Are Buried in L.A.

Mary Wells
Buried In: Forest Lawn, Glendale

Wells found great success at Motown with Smokey Robinson. Her interpretations of his tunes "You Beat Me to the Punch," "Two Lovers" and "My Guy" rocketed her to the top of the charts. She departed Motown over contract disputes in 1965, shortly after the success of "My Guy," derailing her career for decades. She died of laryngeal cancer shortly after turning 49.

Not far from Cooke's is her plaque, no more than six inches long. There is no indication of her great career as she is embedded among more than a hundred other similar-sized plaques in a far corner of the cemetery.

Here's Where Five Soul Legends Are Buried in L.A.EXPAND
SJ O'Connell

Etta James
Buried In: Inglewood Park Cemetery

Watts-born Etta James could sing anything with a groove. She broke out in the 1950s with the help of Los Angeles soul maestro Johnny Otis and skyrocketed from there. Her 1960 version of "At Last" became a wedding staple, effectively polishing the style of the rough and raunchy firebrand. She flexed her muscles later in the decade with the more sensual "Tell Mama" and "I'd Rather Go Blind." A series of drug addictions sidelined her for the second half of her career, but she performed sporadically until her passing two years ago at the age of 73. A small plaque in the verdant Inglewood Park Cemetery hangs not far from the entrance. A photo of her in her cherubic glory days hangs below it.

Here's Where Five Soul Legends Are Buried in L.A.EXPAND
SJ O'Connell

Minnie Riperton
Buried In: Westwood Memorial Park

Minnie Riperton first made her mark with the pyschedlic soul troupe Rotary Connection in the early 1960s. She found eternal success with "Lovin' You" in 1975. The angelic ballad encouraged a lot of listeners to foolishly recreate her high-pitched sigh, to disastrous effect. It was an unmistakable performance that never got a full chance to blossom. She was diagnosed with breast cancer less than two years later and died at the age of 31 in 1979. She is also the mother of comedian and actress Maya Rudolph. Westwood Memorial Park seems to boast more famous residents than non. Riperton is buried near music legends like Beach Boy Carl Wilson and Roy Orbison.

See also: Here's Where Five Early Rock 'n Rollers Are Buried Around L.A.

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