In the 1960s, Solomon Burke helped to define the term "soul music." He had a string of hits, such as Cry To Me, If You Need Me, and Got to Get You Off My Mind, among others. His new album, Don't Give Up On Me, updates his classic sound, complete with Hammond organ and gospel-style back-up singers.
When he was barely 10 years old, Solomon Burke was preaching and broadcasting gospel music in Philadelphia, from his own church, called Solomon's Temple. The church was built by his grandmother for the "Wonder Boy Preacher." Those gospel roots have been evident in Solomon Burke's mainstream R&B music for more than 40 years. He's considered a contemporary of stars such as Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding.
At the age of 66, critics are still marveling at the power and emotion in his voice. Over the decades, Solomon has been a favorite among both black and white audiences, incorporating country and rock with sophisticated R&B. He often tells about the time in the 1960s when he performed for the notorious racist organization, The Ku Klux Klan.
For his new album, Don't Give Up On Me, Solomon Burke recruited some equally legendary songwriters, including Van Morrison, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and Tom Waits. The writers were asked to contribute tunes specifically matching Solomon's classic vocal style.
All the songs sound like they were written in the soul and R&B heyday of the 1960s. There were no rehearsals, and the recording sessions were took only four days. Solomon comments, "We heard a song one or two times and cut it, the way we did in the old times."
Organist Rudy Copeland was on loan from the House of God For All People, the Los Angeles church where Solomon Burke is now a minister. Another gospel touch came from the historic harmony group, The Blind Boys of Alabama, on the tune, None of Us Are Free.
Solomon Burke was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 by Mary J. Blige, the "Queen of Hip-Hop Soul." Known as the "King of Rock and Soul," Solomon says, "I've been in exile, but I'm back on the throne." Over the past few years, his live shows have evolved into a revue-style format, with some of his 21 children helping out on stage. He recently played a critically-acclaimed concert at the House of Blues in West Hollywood.