The course that led Solomon Burke to his throne atop the celestial hierarchy of soul singers has been one of the most extraordinary in pop music history. Born on March 21, 1940, his unerring gift for hitting dead center every time was developed very early in life. By the age of seven, Burke was already a phenomenon, holding forth as the regal-robed Wonder Boy Preacher before not only his own congregation in hometown Philadelphias Solomons Temple, but also an untold number of listeners who tuned in to the live remote broadcasts local station WDAS provided. Delivering innumerable sermons, Burke was already sifting through a complex spectrum of mind and spirit, coaxing right from wrong, uplifting the desperate, examining frailty and failure through a prism that not only explored human psychology but provided direct and invaluable experience with all the passionate intricacies of sanctified gospel singing, the very bedrock upon which so much American popular music is built--territory that Solomon Burke owns.
Recording for the independent Apollo label at age 14, his already skillful presentation resulted in 1954s million selling gospel Christmas Presents From Heaven, but after rhythm & blues tastemaker Jerry Wexler brought him to Atlantic Records in 1960, and Burke applied the gospel technique to secular R&B, it provided the depth, involvement and range of emotion that defined what would come to be known as soul music. His output at Atlantic was stunning, a string of classic numbers ( Cry To Me, Everybody Needs Somebody To Love, Down In The Valley) that defined the idiom with architectural precision, influenced everyone from Otis Redding to Tom Jones and ensured his subsequent coronation as the King of Rock & Soul.
An unchallenged ruler with a remarkable pedigree -- record sales topping 17 million, a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction -- Burke has thrived not only artistically, but also spiritually (he maintains his own church in the San Fernando Valley) and personally (his family boasts 21 children), and shows no sign whatsoever of slowing.
Since his 2002 Grammy win for Best Contemporary Blues Album for the stunning Dont Give Up On Me introduced him to a new generation, Solomon Burkes always impressive cachet has only expanded. He has made numerous television appearances, undertaken his second tour with the Rolling Stones, done studio collaborations with the hipster likes of Junkie XL and Zucchero, been featured in the acclaimed documentary Lightning In A Bottle -- a raft of resume additions that would be an impressive chapter in any musical career, but for an artist such as Burke, one who trades in the profound and illimitable truths of soul music, these are mere speed bumps along the way.
Solomons latest release, Make Do With What You Got brings the focus back to exactly where it should be, on that unrivaled, intoxicating voice, an instrument able to elevate, enchant and more importantly, inform. He once again provides a powerful set that both reflects his unparalleled past achievements and attains a higher artistic plateau. Presented with a warm, after-hours feel from a funky-tight sextet, Burkes incomparable vocals float with an intimate grace, grind down to the gritty rock valley bottom and deliver soul-stirring testimonials of abiding hope. Drawn from the work of some of the 20th centurys most vaunted songwriters, Hank Williams and Bob Dylan among them, the ten tracks play as a series of messages conveyed in oracular metaphor that, coming at a critically uncertain moment in history, strive to manifest the understanding and endurance so sorely needed. In 2006, Solomon received his second Grammy nomination for Make Do With What You Got.
In the Fall of 2005, Solomon collaborated with the British sensation, Jools Holland, both in the studio and in a sell-out tour of the United Kingdom, including two performances at the Royal Albert Hall. And to cap off 2005, Solomon was invited by Pope Benedict XVI to perform at the Vatican for the Christmas concert, with Maestro Renato Serio and the Vatican Symphony Orchestra.
In another step of inspired destiny, Solomon will return to his roots on is next recording: a country cd recorded in Nashville, to be produced by renowned performer, writer, and producer Buddy Miller. The anticipated release for this masterpiece will be September, 2006. In the meantime, Solomon continues to tour, preach and spread his message of peace and love in all that he does.
Live On Stage:
Solomon Burke is a soul music legend, and should be circled on your schedule - no excuses. Here's he is doing his signature song Everybody Needs Somebody To Love...
Here's King Solomon with None Of Us Are Free...
For more on Solomon Burke head on over to his official website.
Saturday, June 7, 2008