RIP: Solomon Burke

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Oct 102010

There are many singers and musicians I’d pay tribute to on their passing. People who’ve made huge contributions to the way music sounds today deserve a head nod when they pass on. But there are fewer people whose death makes me truly sad. Solomon Burke is one of those people.

The Voice of America News reports that he passed away at an airport in Amsterdam. He was en route to a concert he was supposed to give there.

Solomon Burke, arguably with one or two others of his day, invented soul music. He brought the uplifting, soul stirring gospel, secularized the lyrics, and applied it to the troubles everyone faces. He took God out of the music, at least on the face of it, without taking away the soul.

People say he never hit the big time with his music. People are quick to point out that he never had a even a Top 20 Hit. But missionaries don’t go for fame or the money. They go for the glory and influence. That’s exactly what Solomon Burke. People lined up to cover his songs. Everyone in the business wanted to work with Solomon Burke. Everyone wanted to be part of his mission.

And it wasn’t just soul music. Solomon Burke had a huge influence on the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and therefore on the entire blues-rock scene of the 60’s which is still being felt today. 

“Cry To Me” was arguably his first hit followed by soul gems like “Just Out of Reach,”  “If You Need Me,” “Got to Get You Off My Mind,” “Tonight’s the Night,” and “Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye).”

Burke also had his place among country and roots music fans. One of his biggest hits was a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.”

Gospel. Soul. Rock. Country. Blues. He hit all the roots music bases. I know he liked to call himself the “King of Rock and Soul,” but he’s also one of the few people that could lay claim to “The King of Americana.”


programming note: The next Taproot Radio show will feature a one hour tribute to Solomon Burke. So please tune in at WCOM Monday October 11th at 9pm eastern time.

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