Monday, October 11, 2010

Solomon Burke, 1940-2010

Solomon Burke- "Down In the Valley" (live footage from 1987)

Solomon Burke died Sunday. My evolving relationship to Burke's output mirrors my lifelong pursuit of music.

I was disappointed after I purchased a compilation of Burke's hits for Atlantic Records as a curious teenager. I was just beginning to explore American roots music. The polished background vocals and syrupy arrangements on songs like "Just Out of Reach" and "I Really Don't Want To Know" appalled me. As a clueless kid, I was only capable of appreciating Burke's raw R&B material like ""Home In Your Heart." The mixed bag of pop and soul just didn't meet my narrow demand for testosterone-fueled rave-ups. I filed Burke- figuratively and literally- far behind rougher men like Sam & Dave, James Carr, Bo Diddley and Johnny "Guitar" Watson.

Only after I reluctantly rescued a sealed copy of an obscure Burke album from a cutout bin a few years later was my interest in Burke renewed. (I praised it in this space last year.) That voice! That passion! That soul!

I was already mildly obsessed with Burke when he began recording for Black Top. Through my connection to that record label, I was able to catch Burke's shows in various cities in the early '90s. Those were extraordinary times. His Black Top albums were fine, but the Joe Henry-produced Don't Give Up On Me in 2002 revealed an even more profound dimension to the man's music. And as an adult, I could finally relate to the content of contemporary Burke albums. I found that to be an extraordinary turn of events.

I'm still more than capable of getting teenage-style kicks from early Burke hits like "The Price," but it's Burke's rendition of the tragic "It Makes No Difference" that's bringing tears to my eyes as I write these words.

Thanks for everything, Solomon.

My review of Saturday's Rhythm & Ribs festival is posted at Plastic Sax. The highlights? Nicholas Payton and Lalah Hathaway.

Gospel star Albertina Walker died last week.

Kansas City Click: The Riverboat Gamblers return to the Riot Room on Monday.

Fans and friends bid adieu to drummer Zach Albetta Tuesday at Jardine's.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

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