Solomon Burke was not only one of the most soulful singers in history; he was quite possibly the single most soulful man who I ever met. I had the honor of sharing time with this timeless soul giant and inspiring preacher twice. The first was a short interview for Rolling Stone sometime in the midst of his inspiring professional revival that followed the release of his stunning 2002 comeback album Don't Give Up On Me. I'd been a fan of the man's body of work for years, but what struck me about the man was how singularly warm, wise and funny he was one to one. A father of many children himself, Solomon asked about my kids with what felt like genuine and caring interest. I felt like he turned our conversation into some kind of soulful conversion. As a singer and as a man, he put out a lot of love into the world and made you feel a spirit, if not the spirit.
A few years later, in 2007, I got to spend a day or two with the great man in the flesh when I was asked to co-write the script for what became an extraodinary Ahmet Ertegun memorial at Jazz At Lincoln Center along with Taylor Hackford, a soul scholar who loved Solomon too. Solomon had agreed to serve as our MC, along with another strong force of nature, Bette Midler. Even though getting around was not particularly easy for Solomon even then, there was no doubt that he remained a beautiful, powerful and profound presence, onstage and off. Yes, he was a "Big Soul" and he was "The King of Rock 'N Soul." But as I saw it, he was also one soulful and lovable mensch.
By any standards, Solomon Burke was one of music's greatest characters ever -- a spiritual leader, a tireless capitalist and a majestic talent whose genius was recognized by millions of fans, and by many fellow greats who he influenced like Van Morrison and the Rolling Stones.
When I woke up this morning to the news of Solomon's death, I thought back immediately to the first time that I ever spoke with him. Solomon ended our conversation by saying, "May God bless you, son," in a way that somehow made me feel truly blessed. I know he made a lot of people all over the world feel that way too.
God bless you, Solomon Burke. You will be missed.
Here are ten recordings by which to remember this great man where you can still feel his generous and enduring spirit.
CRY TO ME - Solomon Burke
EVERYODY NEEDS SOMEBODY TO LOVE - Solomon Burke
FAST TRAIN - Solomon Burke
DOWN IN THE VALLEY - Solomon Burke
GOT TO GET YOU OFF OF MY MIND - Solomon Burke
TOMORROW IS FOREVER - Solomon Burke with Dolly Parton
JUST OUT OF REACH (OF MY TWO EMPTY ARMS) - Solomon Burke
WE'RE GONNA HOLD ON - Solomon Burke with Emmylou Harris
IF YOU NEED ME - Solomon Burke
A MINUTE TO REST AND A SECOND TO PRAY - Solomon Burke
What song will you remember Solomon Burke by?
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