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American Soul singer Solomon Burke has died at
the age of 70. (10-10-2010) A spokesman for Amsterdam's Schipol Airport,
where the singer's plane landed Sunday, announced his death. The cause of
death was not immediately clear. Burke, a Grammy winner and a member of the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, was due to give a concert in Amsterdam Tuesday.
Legendary Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler dubbed Burke as "the best
soul singer of all time."
Burke's best-known hit "Cry to Me," was used in the dance and seduction scene in the movie "Dirty Dancing." Mick Jagger is said to have admitted to trying to imitate the phrasing of Burke's voice on the Rolling Stone's cover of "Cry to Me." Burke's song "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" was covered by Wilson Pickett, the Rolling Stones and the Blues Brothers. However, he never reached the same level of fame as his some of his contemporaries, like James Brown and Marvin Gaye.
Solomon Burke's website says he was born on March 21, 1940 "in an upper room at the United Praying Band The House of God for All People" Church in West Philadelphia "to the sounds of horns and bass drums from the sanctuary." He gave a performance for "one of his biggest fans" Pope John II at the Vatican in 2000.
Burke released a CD this year entitled "Nothing is Impossible." Burke is survived by 21 children and almost 100 grandchildren.
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Solomon Burke was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 21, 1940. Some sources claim that he was born in 1936, others say 1938, but in a 2002 interview with Philadelphia Weekly Burke stated himself that he was indeed born in 1940. He began his adult life as a preacher in Philadelphia, and soon moved on to hosting a gospel radio show. In the 1960s, he signed with Atlantic Records and began moving towards more secular music. His first hit was "Just Out Of Reach Of My Open Arms", a cover of a country song. Though well-received by both peers and critics, and attaining a few moderate pop and several major R&B hits, Burke never could quite break through into the mainstream as did Sam Cooke or Otis Redding, who covered Burke's "Down in the Valley" for 1965's Otis Blue. His best known song is "Cry to Me", used in the dance and seduction scene in the film Dirty Dancing.
In 1964 he wrote and recorded "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love", Burke's most prominent bid for an enduring soul standard. Almost immediately covered by The Rolling Stones the same year, other well-known versions include one by Wilson Pickett and another, a decade and a half later, in the 1980 film by The Blues Brothers.
Burke has enjoyed a special relationship with the Catholic Church throughout his life and in 2000, he and his family were invited to perform at the Jubilee of the Family at the Vatican. Since then, he has been invited back to the Vatican by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI for Vatican's Christmas celebration.
Burke was also an undertaker and had a mortuary business in Los Angeles. He was trained as a mortician early in his life and had worked in his uncle's funeral parlor.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
His career was to some degree revived in 2002, with the release of Don't Give Up On Me on Fat Possum Records and produced by Joe Henry, where he sang songs written specifically for the album by various top-rank artists, including Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello and Tom Waits. Don't Give Up On Me won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
In 1987, he appeared in the movie The Big Easy as Daddy Mention and he is featured in the 2004 movie Lightning in a Bottle, singing "Turn on Your Love Light" and "Down in the Valley". Also in 2004, Solomon appeared on Junkie XL's album, Radio JXL: A Broadcast From the Computer Hell Cabin, performing "Catch Up To My Step". Also in 2004 he was featured on the song "I Pray On Christmas" from the Blind Boys Of Alabama album Go Tell It On The Mountain, which won a Grammy for Best Traditional Gospel Album. In 2004, Burke also recorded a duet with Italian soul singer Zucchero. The two artists performed Zucchero's hit "Diavolo in me" (Devil in Me), on the duets album Zu & Co. Burke was also a guest at a London show in May 2004 in which Zucchero presented the album. This performance is included on Zucchero's DVD Zu & Co. - Live at the Royal Albert Hall.
He was mentioned throughout the Nick Hornby novel "High Fidelity."
In 2005, he appeared as a special guest with Jools Holland on his autumn tour of the United Kingdom, including two sell-out shows at London's Royal Albert Hall.
In September 2006, Burke returned to his country roots with the release of a 14-track country album titled Nashville, produced by Buddy Miller. It included guest vocals from Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch and Patty Loveless. The album peaked at #55 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart.
Solomon was joined by a host of top country stars and backed by Buddy Miller and his Band at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, Tennessee on September 25, 2006 for a one-off concert to celebrate the release of Nashville. The concert was filmed by HDNet and was released on DVD in Europe on September 17, 2007.
On September 28, 2006, Burke was among the several rock, soul, and country legends that sang along with Jerry Lee Lewis at the live concert "Last Man Standing" at the Sony Music Studio in New York. The two duets were "Who Will the Next Fool Be" and "Today I Started Lovin' You Again".
In February 2007, Burke performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and later on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. The Tonight Show performance was accompanied by The Tonight Show Band members and bandleader Kevin Eubanks on lead guitar. On Late Night he performed with Buddy Miller "That's How I Got To Memphis", from Burke's album Nashville.
As of February, 2009, Burke was the father of 21 children (14 daughters and 7 sons), 90 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. On 15 July 2008, Burke confirmed to his audience at the Juan Les Pins Jazz Festival in France that he would soon have 90 grandchildren. Several of his children and grandchildren have had successful careers in various facets of the music industry, though none are as renowned as their patriarch. One of his grandsons, Novel, will release his first studio album in October 2008. His daughter, Candy Burke, was a backing singer for the first time at a Burke performance in the July 2008 Juan Les Pins concert where she performed a rendition of "I Will Survive" to rapturous applause from the crowd.
As one of the early artists at Atlantic Records, in 2007 Burke honored Ahmet ErtegŁn, the co-founder of Atlantic Records and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Burke co-hosted the March 2007 celebration of Ertegun's life's work at Lincoln Center in New York, participated in the American Master's documentary Atlantic Records: The House That Ahmet Built, and in December 2007, Burke performed at the private after-party for the Led Zeppelin reunion concert at The O2 in Greenwich, London, along with Ben E. King, Percy Sledge and Sam Moore.
In January 2008, Solomon went back to the recording studio to record with the producer/drummer Steve Jordan. The album titled Like A Fire has songs written specifically for Burke by Ben Harper, Eric Clapton, Jesse Harris, Keb' Mo'' Mo', Meegan Voss and Steve Jordan and was released on June 10, 2008. This album was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album of 2008.
Burke joined Widespread Panic on stage for None of Us Are Free at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles on June 20, 2008.
He performed at the http://www.bonnaroo.com/ Music Festival on June 15, 2008, and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival on June 22, 2008, and for the first time in his career at England's Glastonbury Festival on June 29, 2008. This was part of his European 2008 Summer Tour, and included concerts in Portugal, England, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Austria, France, Switzerland, Norway, Slovakia and Sweden.
In 2009, Burke joined Willie Mitchell at Mitchell's Royal Studio in Memphis to work together on a new recording. It is the first time Burke and Mitchell have worked together in their careers. Burke also put on his record label hat - his label, The One Entertainment Systems has signed Clarence Fountain and Sam Butler and their most recent project: Stepping Up And Stepping Out. It is Clarence Fountain's first project since stepping away from The Blind Boys of Alabama.