Solomon Burke, one of the great soul survivors, died yesterday on a plane in Amsterdam at 70.
Burke started off in Philly as a straight-up preacher/gospel singer, but after a move to Atlantic Records — at the time the label for sophisticated, urban soul — he produced a series of soul singles and albums that developed cult status.
Although he never matched Sam Cooke or Otis Redding's commercial success, Burke was “the soulman's soulman,” revered by the likes of Redding, Bob Dylan (who wrote a song for him), the Rolling Stones and even soul evangelist Soul Belushi, who turned “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” (covered by the Stones in the mid-'60s as well) into a massive Blues Brothers hit in the '80s.
“Cry To Me” might have been his bigger crossover success (particularly after its appearance on Dirty Dancing) and recent Starbucks and revival tours might have given him some late-life comforts, but his strongest artistic legacy are those '60s sides on Atlantic.
And it's no accident that when Nick Hornby had to concentrate all the power of music obsession for the main character in his High Fidelity (the novel, not the movie), he chose Burke's “Got to Get You Off My Mind.” All the way to the end of the line, the soulman was still at it, being an ambassador of his art form all over the world: