Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Solomon Burke, Entertainer, Preacher and Soul Man, died on October 10th, aged 70.

Solomon Burke’s career was as colourful as his stage performances. His songs were steeped in the gospel tradition, which suited him just fine. Both his mother and grandmother were honest to God churchwomen and by 9 he was widely known as the Wonder Boy Preacher.

Mr. Burke never reached the ethereal heights of his contemporaries like James Brown or even Isaac Hayes. He didn’t need to for embedded in his songs was that unmistakable voice, the voice of a man whose soul was touched by God himself. In concert he often wore flowing robes, a crown and even sat on a throne as if to say all hail The King of Soul.

His eccentricities extended beyond the stage. Mr. Burke leaves behind 21 children, 90 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. This patriarch of soul left behind a legacy of biblical proportions; his music a gift to all mankind. I first came to know Burke, much older then, from his album Don’t Give Up on Me (2002). The album was mellow and without the brassy pulse of Everybody Needs Somebody to Love. This was Mr. Burke at maturity. His voice was soothing but his music was like that, easy listening with a hint of melancholy, it was soul for beginners but veterans also went back to Mr. Burke like Prodigal Children so that he could wipe away the pain and tell us everything was going to be all right, and it worked, like therapy on the cheap. Fast train is one if my all time favourite songs, an analogy of life and all it’s misery but Mr. Burke argued as to move on not despite of this but in spite of it. Always a group of wailing women served as back up vocals making his songs so catchy and endearing as he decried moral decay or the fact that (always and everywhere) Everybody Wants to Fall In Love.

Mr. Burke died in Amsterdam, at Schipol Airport. His website reported that “He was on his way to spread his message of love”. He may not have reached where he was going but his message reverberates around the world in the hearts of many. He sometimes sang about going home, indeed We’re Almost Home (1972) was all about that wholesome place, almost metaphysical in definition. Mr. Burke is now finally home. At peace after giving so much of himself. He gained neither obsessive fame nor excessive fortune and I think he was okay with that.

To King Solomon.


Anonymous said...

I like that part where you say he neither gained obsessive fame nor excessive fortune. How do u get that balance? Very few do. i didn't know about Burke but i admire him from what you have said.

Mũdũ wa Mũmbi said...

His music is quite something. You should definitely have a listen. He inspired a lot of people.

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