Sunday, October 10, 2010


Another of the greats has left this world. This morning we all found out about the passing of one of the great soul singers ever, Solomon Burke.

There are plenty of news stories discussing the legacy of the man.  I don't remember when I first became aware of him.  I feel like I've always known the song "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love," which is just one of those immortal songs from the early rock and roll/R&B era.

At some point in the '90s when I was getting into the roots of R&B I became a fan and picked up one of his greatest hits albums, which is indeed pretty great. Dude was a preacher and a radio host, and you can hear that in "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love." It's also interesting that some of his early hits were country songs, including his first one, "Just Out Of Reach." 

What I found most inspiring is how his career was (seemingly) revived by his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Solomon had been eligible for induction from day one, it took him like 15 years to finally get voted in.  But it really revitalized him: the next year, he released Don't Give Up On Me on Fat Possum Records, produced by the great Joe Henry. I don't know if that album was in the works before the induction, but his induction seemed to give him a bit of momentum.  Instead of being the usual "all star collabs" type deal, this album featured lots of amazing songwriters writing songs just for the album. Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits and even Bob Dylan donated original tunes. The album is a masterpiece and I'm not the only one who thinks so: it won a Grammy but also was named Mojo magazine's album of the year. I'm serious, check it out. I enjoy it even more than the greatest hits album, and that's what I find so inspiring about the man: he was vital up 'til the very end. (In fact, I named him one of my Artists of the '00s). I've enjoyed his subsuquent albums: 2005's Make Due With What You Got (produced by Don Was), 2006's Nashville (produced by Buddy Miller), 2008's Like A Fire (produced by Steve Jordan), and Nothing's Impossible, which came out earlier this year and which was produced by the late great Willie Mitchell. They are all well worth checking out, although I prefer Don't Give Up On Me. How many 70 year old artists leave this world with five straight great albums in a row?  That's pretty inspiring, and a great way to go out.

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