Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

Solomon Burke

He won his Grammy in 2003, for an album entitled Don't Give Up on Me, but Solomon Burke, who died Oct. 10 at 70, became the "King of Rock and Soul" long before that. The Philadelphia-born singer-song-writer first sang "Cry to Me" in 1962 and preached "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" in 1964. Years later, both recordings would be heard in hit movies — Dirty Dancing and The Blues Brothers, respectively. While Burke wasn't as famous as others in his field, his influence was profound; the Rolling Stones were among the many artists who covered his songs, and eventually he toured with them. It was perhaps fitting that the big man with the big voice (he tipped the scales at an estimated 400 lbs.) often appeared onstage on a throne. An ordained minister as well as a Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Burke had an undeniable power to move people. Even today, sitting still is not an option when listening to one of his seductive records. Delivering numbers like "Down in the Valley," Burke, whose gospel background infused everything he did, was both spiritual and spirited. Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler called him "the best soul singer of all time." But Burke, the father of 21 children and grandfather of many more, may have summed up his life best: "Loving people," he said, "is what I do."

Alexandra Silver