Though he started out as a preacher, recording gospel sides for Apollo in the 50's, he eventually moved toward secular music upon signing with Atlantic Records in the early 60's. His sides for Atlantic mixed gospel and country influences with soul on hits like "Just Out of Reach," "Got To Get You Off My Mind," "If You Need Me," "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love" (later recorded by Wilson Pickett), and probably his best known song, "Cry To Me," which was a hit in the 60's and also in the late 80's, when it became an integral part of the movie, and soundtrack to, Dirty Dancing. All of these songs have been collected in The Very Best of Solomon Burke.
Soul Alive!.....a masterful performance that captured perfectly the fervor of his live shows, down to the frantic screaming of the women members of the audience, and 1986's A Change Is Gonna Come, a great modern recording which showed that King Solomon was as much a force of nature in the mid 80's as he was in the mid 60's. Here's the opening cut from A Change Is Gonna Come, "Love Buys Love," written by the great Paul Kelly.
He was also a major player in Peter Guralnick's Sweet Soul Music, THE book of Southern soul music. If you haven't read this book and you enjoy soul music, you really must add it to your reading list. While the book covers many other soul pioneers, such as Ray Charles, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, James Carr, Al Green, and Otis Redding, Solomon Burke is the star of the book, pure and simple, and the exposure led to a resurgence in his popularity.
He also recorded a couple of early 90's discs for Black Top Records that were well-received, but the turn of the century saw him at his most prolific, as he recorded several critically acclaimed albums, including Don't Give Up On Me for Fat Possum in 2002, Nashville (a country/soul disc) in 2006, and his final release from earlier this year, Nothing's Impossible. Ironically the last recording produced by the legendary Willie Mitchell turned out to be the last recording from Solomon Burke.
We'll bid the King of Rock N' Soul farewell with this fantastic cut from his latest, "Dreams," which features the best of Burke's singing and testifying, along with Mitchell's classic Memphis soul production values (love those horns and gurgly keyboard)....then a clip from the early part of the decade from the British show, Tops of The Pops, with Burke performing "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love."
Dick Waterman. Mr. Waterman is one of the few non-performers to be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and he's had a fascinating career. He started promoting concerts featuring blues performers in his native Massachusetts in the early 60's and later formed Avalon Productions, a booking agency that represented blues artists. He ended up representing artists like Skip James, Son House, Junior Wells, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Lightnin' Hopkins, B. B. King, and many others. He even played a big role in the beginning of Bonnie Raitt's career. After many of the artists he represented passed away, he did his best to make sure that their estates were taken care of and their heirs were provided for.
Over the years, Waterman had taken thousands of photographs of the various musicians he represented or saw performing at various settings. In the 80's, he started a second career publishing his pictures. In addition to blues artists, he has photographed many rock, jazz, folk, zydeco, and country artists. Many of these pictures can be seen on his site, but he collected a hundred or so of them a few years ago into a book called Between Midnight and Day: The Last Unpublished Blues Archive.
|Mississippi John Hurt (photo by Dick Waterman)|
|Son House (photo by Dick Waterman)|
Listen to House's Library of Congress recording of "Walking Blues" below and take in the atmosphere of the session with the give and take between House and the other artists (Fiddlin' Joe Martin on mandolin, Leroy Williams on harmonica, and Willie Brown on second guitar) and the sound of steam locomotives passing through in the background. Though this song is sometimes credited to Robert Johnson, House actually recorded it during his 1931 session with Paramount, but it was never released and a test acetate wasn't found until years later.
House was a morose sort.....he wavered between playing the blues and becoming a Baptist preacher for years. He battled constantly with the more gregarious Patton during their time performing together, but he slowed down quite a bit after Patton's death in 1934 and left the blues behind completely in the early 40's, and ended up working with the railroad in Rochester, New York, while various blues scholars beat the bushes trying to find out what happened to him.
When he was rediscovered in the mid 60's, he hadn't played a guitar in years and literally had to be retaught to play like Son House (by Al Wilson of Canned Heat). Soon, he began playing at various festivals and was even recording again. While he had lost some of his guitar playing skill over time, that fierce passion was still present and his performances were just as impressive as they had been 25 - 30 years earlier. Eventually, he developed health problems and retired in 1976. He died in 1988. I think Cub Koda said it best......"Son House was the Blues."
"Death Letter Blues" was the first song I ever heard by Son House and it was proof enough for me that he was the real deal. Check out this performance from the mid 60's.