Monday, October 11, 2010

Solomon Burke's Charlotte connection

Solomon Burke, to his fans the King of Rock and Soul, and to others little more than a distant foonote in the development of rhythm and blues, died Sunday on a flight from Amsterdam to Los Angeles, the wire services report. It was a sad thing to hear, because Burke was a wonderful singer who bridged many gaps from gospel, country, rhythm and blues, blues and rock and roll. I plumb wore out two casette tapes of his Best of Solomon Burke before CDs were invented. He just never got the same attention that other famous entertainers have enjoyed, but he made solid contributions that helped a lot of rich superstars get where they are. He wrote for the big boys, too.

If you're a fan of Burke, I don't have to tell you how important he was. If not, it may help to point to his work that was featured, among many other places, in the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing with the song "Cry to Me" and in the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers with his song "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love." The Blues Brothers had one of the worst movie plots in memory but the entertainment was just terrific, including pieces from Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker and a host of the best session players in the world. We watched it so many times my children memorized the dialogue -- and as adults still quote it at the appropriate times.

There's a Charlotte connection with Burke's "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love." According to this website , Burke hired some unnamed musicians from Charlotte to play a Long Island gig with him and them help him cut the song he wrote with Jerry Wexler and Bert Russell in the 1960s. The website doesn't say who those Charlotte players were, but they were there at the beginning. Here's a snippet from the article:

Solomon Burke recalled to Mojo magazine August 2008 that he'd hired musicians from Charlotte, North Carolina, to play at a gig in Long Island and he drafted them in to play the instrumental riff on this. The riff was the money march he did at church where the congregation marches down the aisle to the front to make offerings. Burke continued: "Got the band cooking, get a bit of echo, we went through it, came back out, said to (record executive/producer) Jerry (Wexler), 'Whaddya think?' He said, 'Too fast. Doesn't have any meaning.' (Engineer) Tommy (Dowd) says, 'What can we lose? His band's here, let's just cut it.'"

The Blues Brothers covered this. Their version featured in the 1980 The Blues Brothers film. Nine years later, it was released as a single in the UK, backed by "Think" and it peaked at #12.

Anyone have any idea who those Charlotte musicians were?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow---what a Charlotte connection. Maybe we should build a statute of Burke somewhere to commemorate this historic link. Is there any money left over from the greenway project?