tue 28/06/2022

Solomon Burke, c 1940-2010 | reviews, news & interviews

Solomon Burke, c 1940-2010

Solomon Burke, c 1940-2010

He was the man who Jerry Wexler, co-founder of Atlantic Records, thought was the greatest soul singer of them all and "a salesman of epic proportions". Nearly 30 stone when he died, he fathered 21 children (and is reported to have had 90 grandchildren). He was born in Philadelphia in 1936, 1938 or 1940 according to differing reports and made his mark as a preacher before becoming a song-writer and performer. He also had a job as an undertaker and ran a mortuary business in Los Angeles having worked in his uncle's funeral parlour, and was a gospel radio DJ.

Among his classic songs were "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love", which Jerry Wexler got a co-writing credit for, which was covered by The Rolling Stones and used in the film The Blues Brothers, and "Down in the Valley" covered by Otis Redding among others (see videos below). Burke never quite managed to break into the mainstream in the way the likes of Redding or Sam Cooke did - out of scores of singles, most only reached the lower end of the chart, at best, and by 1972 even these minor hits had dried up.

He always retained enormous cachet in the music business and had fanatical followers. His profile was increased by appearing as Daddy Mention in the 1987 film The Big Easy and he was mentioned throughout Nick Hornby's 1995 book High Fidelity. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, while 2002's Don't Give Up on Me was an album where he sang songs specially written for him by the stellar likes of Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison and Tom Waits. The album revived his career and he was able to sell out, for example, a couple of shows at the Royal Albert Hall in 2005. He had fans in the Vatican - singing there more than once for Popes John Paul and Benedict at their Christmas celebrations.

A short video tribute from theartsdesk to a giant of a man, who died yesterday at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, is below.

Above, "None of us are Free", with the Blind Boys of Alabama:

"None of us are free/ If one of us is chained/ None of us are free"

Above, "I Can't Stop Loving You", a song Ray Charles had a huge hit with in 1962:

Above, "Down In The Valley", a Solomon Burke composition covered by Otis Redding on 1965's Otis Blue:

Above, "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love", one of his songs covered by The Rolling Stones and Wilson Pickett, among others:


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