Solomon Burke, King of Rock ‘n Soul, Dies

Posted October 11, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

Legendary soul singer and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee dies from “natural causes” at the age of 70

Solomon Burke, 70, died from natural causes in Amsterdam at Schiphol Airport; according to family members. It was reported that he was there to perform with Dutck rock band De Dijk for an October 12 event.

Better known as ‘Big Soul’, Burke won thousands of fans over the years for his soulful downhome bluesy approach to the R&B. His style was so strong that it influenced many rock stars during rock music’s infancy. His style drew from the foundations of gospel music –  the sounds of the church – and paved the way for him to become a preacher at the very beginning of his adult life. Rolling Stone claims he began preaching at the age of seven.

In the 1960’s, Ahmet Ertegun signed him to Atlantic Records while searching for the next generation of R&B’s heroes who defined the labels’ history in the ’50’s (Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner and LaVern Baker).  He hit it big with “Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms” in 1961; climbing to #7 r&b and #24 pop. Although the song was his best-selling pop record, he did enter the charts over the years with a number of R&B hits including the ‘Dirty-Dancing’ gem “Cry to Me (#5 r&b, #44 pop), “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” (#58 pop), “If You Need Me” (#2 r&b, #37 pop), and 1965’s #1 r&b smash “Got To Get You Off My Mind.” He recorded with Atlantic throughout the ’60’s and eventually moved on to Bell, MGM and Chess in latter years.

The soul singer switched formats a number of times, singing gospel for Savoy Records in the late ’70s and early ’80’s and even going towards blues. He went into country pop for his 2006 album release Nashville.

In 2001, Burke was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Rolling Stone ranked his 1964 uptempo rocker “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” at #429 in their magazine’s best-of list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The Blues Brothers (Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi) recorded the song in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers and has since been recorded by the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and the Jerry Garcia Band.

In his latter years, Burke remained busy and continued to record. His Steve Jordan-produced, Grammy-nominated Like a Fire record was supported by a cast of modern pop and rock songwriters including Eric Clapton, Ben Harper and Keb ‘ Mo. Nothing’s Impossible, his most recent release, found Burke collaborating with the late Willie Mitchell; the architect behind Hi Records. In 2007, He also paid homage to Ahmet Ertegun by co-hosting a celebration for his work at Lincoln Center in New York while also particpating in the making of the American Masters’ documentary Atlantic Records: The House That Ahmet Built. His busy schedule also allowed him to perform at major music festivals and events including Bonnaroo and England’s Glastonbury, while also touring occasionally with pop/soul singer Joss Stone.

Burke is survived by 14 daughters, 7 sons (a total of 21), 90 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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