Sunday 10 October 2010

The Night I Discovered SOLOMON BURKE

It was 2003. I was maybe less tall; although I can't be sure. The night was a mix of amazing and depressing, which is always the case; when you're the kid with the weird tastes who has to do stuff on his own. I wanted to see Van Morrison live before he died, or before I died. I had it in my head that Morrison was old, really old, like eighty. I soon found out he wasn't-- but by that time I'd already spent £80 on a ticket near the stage.

So there I am, a guy in his late teens, going to see a legend of music, on my own. That made me grumpy. Well, that kind of thing used to make me grumpy-- now it just excites me to like what I like. Van Morrison was okay, he was cool. I didn't love the gig. He messed around with his songs a lot. I normally like that kind of thing but it felt more like messing things up than inspired improvising. All was not lost, because I didn't just discover how young Van Morrison was that night, I discovered Solomon Burke.

He was the support act. He came on stage and he just had PRESENCE. He was THERE. And the minute he sung-- wow. It was beautiful. His big, booming, beautiful voice-- it simply took over the Royal Albert Hall. I wanted to be Solomon Burke. Like, I want that attitude, I want that peace. I want that message, I want that heart. He sung "If You Need Me" and he meant it. I felt like he was there for me. And for me, his version of "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" is so soulful - it's perfect.

I don't listen to Burke as much as I listen to Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, etc--- for me, those guys are the Shawshank Redemption's of music; you always go back to them. Solomon Burke is the movie you pull out on a Tuesday night when you're feeling depressed and need to hear from an old friend.

Here is his version of 'A Change Is Gonna Come.' I don't see it as a cover of the Sam Cooke song, they're not in competition -- for me, it's something else, a different angle, that fills a different need-- but it's still something that definitely needs to be heard.

There are less and less people like Solomon Burke in the world, and that's a shame. It's strange to me because, just last night; I spent a night sitting at a computer with my Dad, going through all the music we love. Of course, at first; I had to explain what YouTube is, but after that.. it was glorious as we revelled in the magic of Wilson Pickett, James Brown and Otis Redding. And then, hours later it would seem: Solomon Burke died. Rather than be sad about having to say RIP to another music legend, I'd rather just be grateful that he existed at all. He added something to the world.

Care to share?


  1. Great story, great singer. It's how I feel about Stevie Ray Vaughn, coming back to them when you really need a friend. Also now I finally have a ballpark estimate to your age...that wasn't weird, was it?

  2. Nice article. I saw Solomon Burke supportng Van Morrison expecting to see a sad worn out cabaret artist. But how wron I was! Great stage presence.That voice.The interaction with crowd. Masterful.Almost stole the show from Van Morrison! So I guess I'm grateful to Van M for introducing me to him - like he did bringing Bobby Blue Bland over to the UK to tour with him.

  3. Did you ever see THE CRYING GAME, with the opening scene with Solomon Burke's WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN playing over the opening credits?

    And if I recall correctly, Solomon was at the wedding of "Little Stephen" Van Zandt-this was years ago- and sang the song for Steve and his bride, and all the guests (including Bruce, Southside Johnny, and various E-Streeters).

    He was one of the first African-American RB singers to cross over from what was then called "race music" in the United States in the early 1960's, along with James Brown, Ike and Tina, Aretha, and Wilson Pickett (my fave)

    He was a pioneer, and deservedly elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

    Another voice from my of the great ones.