One of the few great talents who was always prolific, Solomon Burke was irrepressibly recording from the mid-Fifties until until his death on October 10, when he was still planning new projects. It’s very difficult to narrow his amazingly varied career down to a few cuts. He will probably always be best known for “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” which he wrote and Wilson Pickett made a hit. (The Rolling Stones and Blues Brothers also recorded rousing, well-known covers.) He had many hits and semi-hits on the R&B charts for Atlantic in the early and mid Sixties, but never quite crossed over to the white audience, which mostly preferred the softer, more pop approach of Motown.
A true son of the black church, specifically the House of Prayer for All People, Solomon loved to preach while singing, and sing while preaching. Soul Alive, if you can find it, captures the cathartic aspect of the gospel route into soul and rock and roll. He brought an irresistible enthusiasm to his sermons. As good as he was in the studio, he was best whipping a crowd into divine frenzy.
Solomon also loved white folk music, going back to the early Sixties (“Down in the Valley”), bringing his deep soul emotion to the short-story tradition of country. Nashville, with its spare acoustic accompaniment and tragic overtones, ranks among his best albums.
The last complete album produced by the great Willie Mitchell, Nothing’s Impossible also stands as a fitting epitaph for Solomon. Persevering in the face of hardship because love makes life worth it, is the theme of the title song, and of his life.
Home in Your Heart (Any greatest hits collection should include these.)
“Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” 1964 (Listen)
“Cry to Me,” 1962 (Listen)
“Down In the Valley,” 1962 (Listen)
“Stupidity,” 1966 (Listen)
“Get Out Of My Life Woman,” 1968
“Can’t Nobody Love You,” 1966
“Home In Your Heart,” 1963
Soul Alive, 1984
Medley: “Monologue (The Women of Today) Hold On to What You’ve Got/He’ll Have to Go)”
Like a Fire, 2008
“We Don’t Need It”
Nothing’s Impossible, 2010