Friday, October 29, 2010


While most who heard the news of Solomon Burke's death said, "Who?" a few soul-lovin' bloggers expressed shock and sadness at their hero's passing…almost to the point of doing something beyond posting an album cover and a link. Some actually said "R.I.P." or something like that. Anyone actually familiar with Mr. Burke had a reason to be saddened. But shocked? The man was singing in a wheelchair thanks to obesity. Put it this way, you could fit Oprah and Aretha into each leg of his pants. It was remarkable he managed to make it to 70.

Solomon (March 21, 1940 – October 10, 2010) released a new album this year and was celebrated with a nice piece in Rolling Stone (May 27th issue). It opened with a funny line about the shape of the bald man's head, "nicely symmetrical except for a flat spot on the upper left side, as if somebody took a small slice off the fat end of an Easter egg with a razor. 'That's where my mother hit me with a frying pan,' Burke says with a laugh…I had cleaned it with a Brillo pad, and she didn't want no Brillo on her frying pan.'" I need not regurgitate the other highlights. Get a subscription, same as me. It's nice to sit back with an actual magazine in hand, at least once in a while.

At least Burke was not one of those completely forgotten soul guys who end up with a few paragraphs in Rolling Stone after they die. He knew his worth, and so did his fans, who were still anxious to see him perform, even in his wheelchair. In fact he was en route to a performance in Holland when he collapsed and died. Now there's a shock…that he died on his way to entertain the Dutch…and they were actually paying for tickets. Or did he collapse when he was told that everybody in that country expected him to sing for free? PS, it's not that the Dutch have soul; maybe he was booked because they could relate so well to his obesity.

Like his body, Solomon Burke covered a wide range. Naturally enough, the choice here, for what might be your introduction to his masterful singing, is his cover of Bob Dylan's "Maggie's Farm." Not that it was the Big Man's biggie. That would be "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love," which was revived on the soundtrack to "The Blues Brothers," but attributed to Wilson Pickett. Burke's anger was quickly erased when Atlantic sent over $20,000. Earlier, the religious Mr. Burke had forgiven Atlantic execs Jerry Wexler and Bert Burns for somehow sticking their names on the song and getting a share of royalties they didn't really deserve. (Yes, a perfectly good reason to upload and download all of Burke's albums for free…as a protest against the surprising corruption one finds only in the music business, not in, say, banking, stock transactions, or political appointments to civil service jobs.)

Burke was still recording, though mostly on indie labels, including the brilliant 2002 effort 'Don't Give Up On Me." The title track's a true heartbreaker…which ain't gonna help the people who are already a little torn over Solomon's departure. There's also the 2005 "Make Do With What You Got," and the new one that led to the Rolling Stone article, "Nothing's Impossible." His farewell album isn't very commercial, but it'll be undeniably satisfying for hardcore fans of classic soul and R&B. While the title track is actually one of the weaker ones, and a bit too preachy, the other tracks include the powerful "Everything About You," and "Oh What a Feeling," the kind of piece so black it's blue, and something most guys from Joe Cocker to Randy Newman wish they could sing as well. No doubt about it, at 70 the man was still gettin' it done.

Burke left behind 21 children…which might be one reason why he was beloved by the Vatican and was given a chance to meet both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. You just can't have enough children can you? Every sperm is sacred, amen. His official website is and the current message there is as follows:

"We graciously thank you for your continued support and love.  We find strength in your well wishes, your great stories and your dedications.  To continue the legacy, please donate to: The Burke-Maynard Foundation (Solomon Burke Scholarship Award) and/or Solomon’s Temples of the World House of God for All People – a 501 c3 Non- Profit (donations will be for the maintenance of his church and legacy) P.O. Box 2044, Beverly Hills CA. 90213. In Solomon's words, "No donation is too small or too big!" May Solomon's message of love and peace continue to live within us for everlasting eternity.  All is Well!"


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

PO Box 2044 Beverly Hills California 90213 is under investigation for stealing royalties belonging to Delores Burke for more then 33 years. Be very careful about sending any money to the Beverly Hills PO Box are to anything having to do with Solomon Burke or any Burke foundations.