Solomon Burke, self-proclaimed ‘King of Rock and Soul’ was a multi award winning gospel, soul singer and song writer whose musical career spanned over half a century.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on the 21st March 1940, where he at first trained and worked as a mortician in his uncle’s funeral parlour business. He later went on to own a string of funeral homes of his own in the Los Angeles area. He grew up under the influence of his church and made his singing debut when he was nine years old. He soon began to develop as a preacher and built a reputation for being able to deliver passionate sermons, which lead members of the congregation to mark him out as having a special gift.
He later went on to host a gospel radio show in Philadelphia, where he sang on a regular basis. In 1955 aged 14 years he signed his first recording contract with the Apollo record label and made his first recording which he dedicated to his grandmother who passed a short time before. The song entitled ‘Christmas Presents from Heaven’ became a million seller gospel hit. He remained with Apollo until 1958, during which time he recorded a total of 14 gospel songs.
Then in 1960 he signed with Atlantic Records where he released his first hit record entitled ‘Just Out of Reach’, which is the Rhythm and Blues cover of an old Country and Western song. Thereafter, he was credited with successfully developing the Country-soul fusion, which he felt on some levels helped to bridge the racial divide and also served to open the doors for other black artists such as Ray Charles to follow in his footsteps. Burke’s relationship with Atlantic eventually ended in 1969 but not before he had recorded thirty two singles. In fact, between 1961 and 1964 he was said to be responsible for keeping Atlantic Records afloat with the string of hits he was able to produce on that label.
After leaving Atlantic Records, during the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s he recorded with various other labels and throughout the 90’s he began touring with a 21 piece band, which was renowned for its luxurious stage presentations. In fact he created a mock set of crown jewels which was a close copy of those held for the British monarchy in the Tower of London, England. He used these to simulate his own crowning during his stage shows. Not only were his shows luxurious, but they hotly rivalled James Brown’s stage performances for intensity and drama.
In 2001 he was honoured by his peers when he was inducted into the hall of fame for his services to the music industry. Solomon Burke fathered twenty one children; was grandfather to ninety and great-grandfather to nineteen so far. On the 10th October 2010 whilst on route to yet another gig in Europe, he collapsed in Schipol international Airport, Amsterdam in Holland and died age seventy years. He leaves behind a legacy of numerous unforgettable songs which no doubt the world will continue to enjoy for generations to come.