New York Times- October 11, 2010
Solomon Burke, a singer whose smooth, powerful articulation and mingling of sacred and profane themes helped define soul music in the early 1960s, died on Sunday at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. He was 70 and lived in Los Angeles.
His death was announced by his family on his official Web site, thekingsolomonburke.com. No cause was given.
Drawing on gospel, country and gritty rhythm and blues in songs like “Cry to Me” (1962), “You Can Make It if You Try” (1963) and “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” (1964), Mr. Burke developed a vocal style that was nuanced yet forceful. Steeped in church traditions from a young age, he could make a sermon out of any situation, as in “The Price” from 1964, a catalog of the wages of a bad romance. (“You cost me my mother/The love of my father/Sister/My brother too.”)
Although he never attained the wide popularity of Otis Redding or James Brown, Mr. Burke had a broad influence on R&B and rock, and he was a favorite of musicians and connoisseurs. Mick Jagger sang several of his songs on early Rolling Stones albums, and Jerry Wexler, the Atlantic Records producer who recorded Mr. Burke at his peak, once affirmed a judgment of him as the best soul singer of all time.
In a genre known for outsize personalities and flamboyant showmanship, Mr. Burke stood out for his sheer boldness and eccentricity. A radio D.J. crowned him the King of Rock and Soul in 1964, and Mr. Burke took the coronation to heart. For the rest of his career, he often performed in full royal habit — crown, scepter and robe — and sat on a golden throne onstage. Wide-shaped in his youth, he grew into Henry VIII-like corpulence, and in his later years had to be wheeled to his throne.
An ordained minister, licensed mortician, resourceful entrepreneur and champion raconteur, Mr. Burke inspired almost as much amazement with his offstage persona as he did with his music. A biography on his Web site says that he had 21 children, 90 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. “I got lost on one of the Bible verses that said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply,’ ” he once said. “I didn’t read no further.”