Soul Serenade

Solomon BurkeIn July, 2002 I was in Philadelphia for WXPN’s Singer/Songwriter Festival. Now the great radio station always throws a good party, but there was a very special reason for being there that year; the King of Rock n’ Soul himself, Solomon Burke, was appearing in what amounted to a late-career homecoming show. King Solomon was born in Philadelphia in the year 1936, 1938, or 1940, depending on who you believe.

I remember enjoying the beautiful summer weather that day in Philadelphia, but more than that I remember the indelible performance that Solomon Burke gave from the throne that was set up on the stage. He seemed happy to be back home, and even happier that he was surrounded that day by family members. The great soul singer was all about family. In his time he fathered 21 children, had 90 grandchildren, and 19 great grandchildren. Now that is a family man.

Burke’s career highlights included the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2001, the Best Contemporary Blues Album Grammy for the Joe Henry-produced Don’t Give Up On Me in 2003, and the long string of hit singles that began in 1981 and included the 1964 track “Got To Get You Off My Mind”, which hit #1 on Billboard’s R&B Chart. Together with Bert Berns and Jerry Wexler he wrote the soul classic “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” which was memorably covered by Wilson Pickett, and the Rolling Stones.

Solomon Burke died on Sunday. His plane had just landed in Amsterdam after a long trip from L.A. He was, going by his own statements, 70 years-old, and he was still on the road spreading his message of joy and love. Each time we lose a legendary artist I’m reminded that such people cannot be replaced. That sense of loss is especially keen this week. RIP King Solomon.