Solomon Burke has died at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport,
RIP big man
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SOLOMON BURKE - Biography
At a time when rock and roll was in its infancy and R&B was just starting to get its groove on, Solomon Burke burst onto the scene, shattered the cultural barriers of the time, scored a massive hit with "Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Empty Arms)" and quickly redefined the way the world would think about music. Conquering hearts, moving hips and electrifying fans in ways no one thought possible, the Philadelphia born legend's soul-stirring smashes and charismatic presence captured the imagination of young people like no one else of his era. Dubbed by legendary Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler as "the best soul singer of all time," Burke, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer since 2001, is more than simply a pioneering American legend from another time and place--he is an innovator whose timeless music spans generations and has inspired millions of fans and hundreds of recording artists across the decades.
While teaching him to clearly enunciate the words to such songs as Gene Autry's "Back In The Saddle Again," Burke's grandmother Eleanor Moore was a powerful spiritual medium who kept him in a futurist world as a child with her spiritual vision and projections of what his life would become. So perhaps it was all fore-ordained "the 17 million record sales; a soul standard ("Everybody Needs Somebody To Love") that was covered by everyone from The Rolling Stones to Wilson Pickett and The Blues Brothers; a career resurrecting 2002 Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album (Don't Give Up On Me) that introduced his genius to a whole new generation; one of his best known hits "Cry To Me" being used in the dance and seduction scene in "Dirty Dancing"; a performance for one of his biggest fans, Pope John Paul II, at the Vatican in 2000, and subsequent invitations to the Vatican's Christmas celebration by John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI; and the achievement the singer calls his greatest, his astounding family of 21 children (14 daughters, 7 sons), 90 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren.
Very soon after the demise of his grandmother, Burke found himself recording at age 14 for the independent Apollo label, where he turned his first song ever, "Christmas Presents From Heaven," into a million selling gospel hit. Sensing a powerhouse sensation in the making, R&B tastemakers Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun, with the help of Burke's manager Babe Shivan, brought him to Atlantic in 1960, where Burke would spend the next decade defining and redefining the essence of American soul music where gospel merged with pop and secular R&B. The singer broke through in 1961 with a cover of the country standard "Just Out Of Reach Of My Two Empty Arms" that was a quick smash on the R&B and pop charts; many credit Burke's unique blend of R&B and country as opening the door for Ray Charles subsequent emergence.
Over the next seven years, Burke released 32 singles on Atlantic, many of which cracked both the R&B and pop charts, including six Top Ten R&B hits, four of which crossed over to the Top 40 -- "Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Empty Arms)," "Cry To Me," "Got To Get You Off Of My Mind," "You're Good For Me," (penned by Don Covay), "Tonight's The Night" and "If You Need Me" (written by Wilson Pickett). Burke has also been credited with helping keep Atlantic Records solvent from 1961 to 1964 with his steady stream of hits.
The singer says of his songwriting influences: "Gospel was part of my total career, not just something I started with, but something I live with, as my foundation and rock. I grew up a normal black kid in the ghetto, exposed to all kinds of music that influenced me as a songwriter and recording artist. I loved country, big band, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Perry Como, Doris Day, Gene Autry, Ray Charles, Dinah Washington, Roy Rogers "all of whom in some way inspired me to reach my goal of doing something extraordinary with my life that would connect with people. Every song I write has a different meaning, and each one is special because it depends on the situation of the moment in time when I wrote it. I am always flattered by the way other artists interpret my songs, but in the end it doesn't matter how they do it. It's more important that the message of the song reaches people. A simple example is 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love' which is true for everyone. We all need somebody! If the message is meaningful in the beginning, it will reach across the waters and come back across time. If only one person is reached and touched by our songs, then the message through me is being heard, received and believed."
Burke eventually left Atlantic and his great 60s soul heyday behind, but continued recording vigorously throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, amassing a total of 22 soul and gospel albums during these years while taking time to raise his large brood. His recordings during this period include Electrophonic Magnetism, King Heavy, I Have a Dream, Back to My Roots, Music To Make Love By, Lord We Need A Miracle, Take Me, Shake Me, Soul Alive!, Soul Of The Blues, Live At The House of Blues and Definition Of Soul. In the 70s, he also worked behind the scenes for MGM, producing records and scoring films and TV. In 1987, the year "Cry To Me" was featured in Dirty Dancing, he appeared in the hit movie "The Big Easy" as "Daddy Mention." Since his 2001 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and first Grammy win a year later introduced him to a whole new generation, Burke has enjoyed an exciting new phase of his career which has included various collaborative recordings, late night talk show appearances, studio collaborations and, all in 2004, performances with the hipster likes of Junkie XL and Italian rock blues icon Zucchero (including a show at the Royal Albert Hall) and an appearance in the blues documentary "Lightning In A Bottle."
Earlier in 2009, Burke joined famed R&B producer Willie Mitchell at Mitchell's Royal Studio in Memphis to work together on a new recording, marking the first time the two have worked together in their careers. Burke's record label, The One Entertainment Systems, recently released Stepping Up & Stepping Out by former Blind Boys of Alabama members Clarence Fountain and Sam Butler; Burke served as its executive producer.