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Solomon Burke R.I.P.

 
SOLOMON BURKE
, 70, the great soul, R&B and gospel singer whose expression of themes both sacred and profane helped define soul music in the early ‘60s, died yesterday morning (10/10) of natural causes at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam.  He lived in the San Fernando Valley and was archbishop at his South Central L.A. church, the House of God for All People and World Wide Center for Life and Truth. Although Burke never attained the popularity of contemporaries like Ray Charles, Otis Redding or James Brown, Burke had a number of gospel, country and R&B hits in “Cry to Me,” “You Can Make It if You Try” and “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.” Burke had a broad influence on R&B and rock, with Mick Jagger singing several of his songs on early Stones albums, while Jerry Wexler, the Atlantic Records producer who recorded  Burke at his peak, once called him the best soul singer of all time. Dubbed the King of Rock and Soul by a DJ in 1964, Burke performed in full royal regalia, including crown, scepter and robe, sitting on a golden throne onstage. He was also an ordained minister, licensed mortician, entrepreneur and world class raconteur, with 21 children, 90 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. Beginning in 1961 with “Just Out of Reach (of My Two Open Arms),” Burke had a string of R&B hits for Atlantic, though he never broke through to mainstream audiences. His career revival began in the 1980s, with “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” featured in the 1980 film, The Blues Brothers, and in 1987, “Cry to Me” had a prominent role in Dirty Dancing. Burke was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, and in 2002, he released Don’t Give Up On Me (Fat Possum/Anti-), featuring songs by Brian Wilson, Tom Waits and Bob Dylan written for Burke. His most recent album, Nothing’s Impossible—his first and last collaboration with the celebrated producer Willie Mitchell, who died in January—was released on the E1 label in April. On Sunday, he had flown to Amsterdam to perform a sold-out concert there with the Dutch band De Dijk.  “He was on his way to spread his message of love,” his web site announced, “as he loved to do.” Charles M. Young had just recently profiled him in Rolling Stone last May. (10/11a)

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