Solomon Burke (March 21, 1940 - October 10, 2010) was a highly acclaimed and influential R&B/soul singer with a charismatic, emotive style who became famous during the 1960s. Widely regarded as a key figure in the emergence of soul music as a musical genre, his best known songs include such classics as "Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms)" (1961), "Cry To Me" (1962), "If You Need Me" (1963), "Got To Get You Off My Mind" (1965), and "Tonight's The Night" (1965).
Born James Solomon McDonald in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he was consecrated a bishop at birth by his grandmother in the congregation that she founded, and he began at age seven singing and preaching in her church. His name was changed soon after to Solomon Vincent McDonald Burke after his mother married Vincent Burke, a rabbi and kosher butcher. Burke launched his professional career at 13 as the host of his own gospel show on WHAT-AM, mixing both songs and sermons. He was signed to Apollo Records in 1955 as the first prize for winning a talent contest, and by late 1960, he had moved to Atlantic Records.
Solomon Burke debuted in 1961 with his soulful rendition of the Virgil Stewart-penned country ballad, "Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms)," which became a Top 10 hit on both the R&B and Adult Contemporary charts, made the Pop/Rock Top 40, and was his first million-seller. Other signature songs that embody his unique fusion of soul, R&B, country, and gospel include the yearning Bert Berns-penned ballad, "Cry To Me" (1962). Burke topped the R&B charts in 1965 with the up-tempo and bluesy "Got To Get You Off My Mind," and his long string of hits, which continued on both the Pop/Rock and R&B charts through 1975, also includes "If You Need Me" (1963), "You're Good For Me" (1963), "He'll Have To Go" (1964), "Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye)" (1964), "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" (1964), "Tonight's The Night" (1965), "Take Me (Just As I Am)" (1967), his cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's (and later Ike & Tina Turner's) "Proud Mary" (1969), and "You And Your Baby Blues" (1975). During the 1980s, Burke had a resurgence in popularity when "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" and "Cry To Me" were featured in the soundtracks to the movie blockbusters, "The Blues Brothers" (1980) and "Dirty Dancing" (1987), respectively.
Solomon Burke continued to perform and record actively through the 2000s and won a Grammy for his 2002 album, "Don't Give Up On Me." Atlantic Records executive Jerry Wexler referred to him as
the greatest male soul singer of all time, and Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at #89 in its list of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time." Burke was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
- The New York Times remembers Solomon Burke.
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- Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye) 1964
- Got To Get You Off My Mind 1965
- If You Need Me 1963
(This song also became a hit for Wilson Pickett (1963).)
- Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms) 1961
(This song later also became a hit for Percy Sledge (1967).)
- Tonight's The Night 1965
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