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Solomon Burke

Born in Philadelphia, Solomon Burke started preaching at the age of seven, sang on the radio at 12, was signed to the Apollo label by 15, blackballed and sleeping in abandoned cars by 18.

solomonburke_004He was training as a mortician at his aunt’s funeral home when Atlantic Records came knocking in 1960.

The countrified Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms) was a minor hit in 1961, but it was the impassioned soul of the following year’s Cry To Me that really put him on the map.

It was the first of a string of classic 45s, including If You Need Me and the spectacular Everybody Needs Somebody To Love. The latter was soon covered by The Rolling Stones, followed by Wilson Pickett and, in 1980, The Blues Brothers.

In December 1964, Burke was due to meet up with his great friend Sam Cooke in LA on the day Cooke was murdered. On his way back to Philadelphia, Burke wrote Got To Get You Off My Mind. It became his biggest US hit when it was issued a few months later.

solomonburke8But soul music was changing and Burke was overtaken at Atlantic by the secular stirrings of Sam & Dave, and in 1968 he switched to Bell.

The 1970s saw him record less successfully for a number of labels while concentrating on his ministerial career. His church grew to encompass over 170 missions. At other times he also owned drug stores and restaurants.

Burke’s real revival didn’t happen until 2002, when he recorded Don’t Give Up On Me on the Fat Possum label.

Under the guidance of producer Joe Henry, his dazzling versions of unreleased songs from Bob DylanTom WaitsBrian Wilson and others earned him a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album.

Another couple of well-received LPs followed – the country/soul flavoured Nashville (2006) and Like A Fire (2008).

Solomon Burke died in 2010.