Solomon Burke

Solomon Burke
Solomon Burke.jpg
Solomon Burke performing on April 19, 2008
Background information
Birth nameJames Solomon McDonald
Also known asSolomon Vincent McDonald Burke
Born(1940-03-21)March 21, 1940[1]
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
DiedOctober 10, 2010(2010-10-10) (aged 70)
Haarlemmermeer, Netherlands
  • Preacher
  • singer
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1955–2010

Solomon Burke (born James Solomon McDonald, March 21, 1940 – October 10, 2010) was an American preacher and singer who shaped the sound of rhythm and blues as one of the founding fathers of soul music in the 1960s.[2] He has been called "a key transitional figure bridging R&B and soul",[3] and was known for his "prodigious output".[4][5][6]

He had a string of hits including "Cry to Me", "If You Need Me", "Got to Get You Off My Mind", "Down in the Valley" and "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love". Burke was referred to honorifically as "King Solomon", the "King of Rock 'n' Soul", "Bishop of Soul" and the "Muhammad Ali of soul".[7][8][1] Due to his minimal chart success in comparison to other soul music greats such as James Brown, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding, Burke has been described as the genre's "most unfairly overlooked singer" of its golden age.[9] Atlantic Records executive Jerry Wexler once referred to Burke as "the greatest male soul singer of all time".[1][8][10]

Burke's most famous recordings, which spanned five years in the early 1960s, bridged the gap between mainstream R&B and grittier R&B.[11] Burke was "a singer whose smooth, powerful articulation and mingling of sacred and profane themes helped define soul music in the early 1960s."[12] He drew from his roots—gospel, jazz, country, and blues—as well as developing his own style at a time when R&B, and rock were both still in their infancy.[13] Described as both "Rabelaisian"[14] and also as a "spiritual enigma,"[15] "perhaps more than any other artist, the ample figure of Solomon Burke symbolized the ways that spirituality and commerce, ecstasy and entertainment, sex and salvation, individualism and brotherhood, could blend in the world of 1960s soul music."[16]

During the 55 years that he performed professionally, Burke released 38 studio albums on at least 17 record labels and had 35 singles that charted in the US, including 26 singles that made the Billboard R&B charts. In 2001, Burke was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a performer. His album Don't Give Up on Me won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album at the 45th Grammy Awards in 2003. By 2005 Burke was credited with selling 17 million albums.[13][17][18] Rolling Stone ranked Burke as no. 89 on its 2008 list of "100 Greatest Singers of All Time".[19]

Early life and career

Burke was born James Solomon McDonald[20] on March 21, 1940, in the upper floor of his grandmother Eleanor Moore's home,[21] a row house in West Philadelphia.[1][15][22][23] Burke was the child of Josephine Moore[24] and an absentee father. His mother Josephine was a nurse, schoolteacher, concert performer and pastor.[25][26] Burke was consecrated a bishop at birth by his grandmother in the Solomon's Temple, a congregation of the United House of Prayer for All People, which she founded at her home in Black Bottom, West Philadelphia.[27][28] When Burke was nine, his mother married rabbi and butcher Vincent Burke[15] and had his name changed to Solomon Vincent McDonald Burke.[26] Burke's friends and family called him "Sol".[26] Burke was the godson of Daddy Grace.[29]

Burke credited his grandmother as his main spiritual and musical influence.[30][31] He learned how to sing all forms of music from his grandmother's coaching him to listen to music on the radio.[18][28][30] Burke began preaching at the age of 7 at the Solomon's Temple.[26] He was described in his young preaching years as a "frantic sermonizer" and "spellbinding in his delivery";[32] and was soon nicknamed the "Boy Wonder Preacher" for his charismatic preaching in the pulpit.[33] Burke became a pastor of the congregation at age 12, appeared on the radio station WDAS,[34][35] and later hosted a gospel show on WHAT-AM, mixing songs and sermons in broadcasts from Solomon's Temple.[36] On weekends he traveled with a truck and tent, to Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas to carry on the spiritual crusade of his church.[15] Influenced by Superman,[37] "the first sign of a royal persona was evident in the cape that he wore only on Sundays, made from his "blankie"[33] by his grandmother.[38]

Burke had six younger siblings – a sister, Laurena Burke-Corbin (born 23 June 1946),[26] and five brothers: Elec Edward "Alec" (born 16 February 1948),[39] Vladimir H. "Laddie" (born 31 July 1949),[40] Mario "Chuck" (born 13 September 1953),[39] Daniel S. "Danny" (born 10 March 1955),[39] and Jolester R. M. Burke (born 24 September 1958).[22][26][39][41] From an early age Solomon Burke worked to supplement his family's income. He recalled: "I used to deliver grocery orders in a little wagon I made out of fish boxes. When I was seven, I sold newspapers out of my own newsstand on the corner of 40th and Lancaster. I had the first 99-cent car wash, which was located at 40th and Wallace outside Al's Barber Shop. We had it there because he was the only one who would let us use his water. We could wash your car in 20 minutes. I had four or five guys, gave 'em each a nickel for each car."[1] Another briefly held early job was as a hot dog seller at Eddie's Meat Market, where his friend Ernest Evans, later known as Chubby Checker, also worked.[1] Burke eventually graduated from John Bartram High School.[26][42][43] He first became a father at 14.[44]

During high school, Burke formed and fronted the quartet, the Gospel Cavaliers.[45] He received his first guitar from his grandmother, later writing his first song, "Christmas Presents".[1][46] The Cavaliers began performing in churches. It was around this time that Burke met Kae "Loudmouth" Williams, a famed Philadelphia deejay with help from Williams' wife, Viola, who saw Burke and the Cavaliers perform at church.[47][48] Before entering a gospel talent contest in which a record deal was for first prize, the group split up.[26]

Burke entered the contest, held at Cornerstone Baptist Church, as a solo artist and won the contest against eleven other competitors.[26] Soon, several labels including Apollo, Vee-Jay Records and Peacock Records pursued the 15-year-old.[49] Before pursuing the deal, Burke signed Kae Williams as his manager.[26] Williams then took him to Apollo Records introducing him to Bess Berman, who signed him to the label.[15] The move was made after Williams added four years to Burke's age, which led to confusion from the press about his age.[15]

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Solomon Burke
العربية: سليمان بيرك
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Саламон Бэрк
български: Соломон Бърк
català: Solomon Burke
čeština: Solomon Burke
Cymraeg: Solomon Burke
Deutsch: Solomon Burke
español: Solomon Burke
Esperanto: Solomon Burke
euskara: Solomon Burke
français: Solomon Burke
Gàidhlig: Solomon Burke
italiano: Solomon Burke
Lëtzebuergesch: Solomon Burke
Nederlands: Solomon Burke
Piemontèis: Solomon Burke
português: Solomon Burke
русский: Берк, Соломон
српски / srpski: Соломон Берк
svenska: Solomon Burke
Türkçe: Solomon Burke
українська: Соломон Берк