Solomon Burke In-depth Biography
While Solomon Burke} never made a major impact upon the pop} audience -- he never, in fact, had a Top 20 hit -- he was an important early soul} pioneer. On his '60s singles for Atlantic}, he brought a country} influence into R&B} with emotional phrasing and intricately constructed, melodic ballads} and midtempo songs. At the same time, he was surrounded with sophisticated "uptown}" arrangements and was provided with much of his material by his producers, particularly Bert Berns}. The combination of gospel}, pop}, country}, and production polish was basic to the recipe of early soul}. While Burke} wasn't the only one pursuing this path, not many others did so as successfully. And he, like Otis Redding} and Wilson Pickett}, was an important influence upon the Rolling Stones}, who covered Burke}'s "Cry to Me"} and "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love"} on their early albums.
Burke} came by his gospel} roots even more deeply than most soul} stars. He was preaching at his family's Philadelphia church and hosting his own gospel} radio show, even before he'd reached his teens. He began recording gospel} and R&B} sides for Apollo} in the mid- to late '50s. Like several former gospel} singers (Aretha Franklin}, Wilson Pickett}), he was molded into a more secular direction when he signed with Atlantic} in the 1960s. Burke} had a wealth of high-charting R&B} hits in the early half of the '60s, which crossed over to the pop} listings in a mild fashion as well. "Just Out of Reach,"} "Cry to Me,"} "If You Need Me,"} "Got to Get You Off My Mind,"} "Tonight's the Night,"} and "Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye)"} were the most successful of these, although, unlike Franklin} or Pickett}, he wasn't able to expand his R&B} base into a huge pop} following as well. He left Atlantic} in the late '60s and spent the next decade hopping between various labels, getting his biggest hit with a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival}'s "Proud Mary"} in 1969, and recording an album in the late '70s with cult soulster Swamp Dogg} as producer.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Burke} became one of the most visible living exponents of classic soul} music, continuing to tour and record albums in a rootsy, at times gospel-ish style. Although these were critically well received, their stylistic purity also ensured that their market was primarily confined to roots music enthusiasts rather than a pop} audience. His live and later recorded work, however, is a favorite of those who want to experience a soul} legend with his talents and stylistic purity relatively intact. Burke}'s 2002 release Don't Give Up on Me} was hailed as a major comeback for the legendary soul} man. Great songwriters like Elvis Costello}, Dan Penn}, Nick Lowe}, and Tom Waits} contributed songs and Joe Henry} produced the album, which has been compared to Johnny Cash}'s landmark American Recordings}. After the critical success of Don't Give Up on Me} reaffirmed Burke}'s status as one of the greatest living exponents of classic soul}, the singer teamed up with producer Don Was} for Make Do with What You Got}, a updated variation on his classic style that was released in spring 2005. A year later, Burke} released an interesting country} and soul} hybrid, Nashville}, on Shout! Factory}. ~ Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide