Words + Music: Remembering Solomon Burke

Compiled By Arturo R. García

“I feel like his music is where it all came together, and when we think of ’60s soul music it all started with Solomon Burke.”
– Andy Kaulkin, president, Anti-Records, as quoted in The Associated Press

“Cry to Me” is arguably the song Burke will be best known for – due in part to its use during a key, and very sexy, moment in the film “Dirty Dancing.” In the scene, a shirtless Patrick Swayze seduces a very willing Jennifer Grey (or vice versa) while the song plays in the background. That it’s used as a sexual prelude in the film is almost an affront to the song; what the two characters are doing is exactly what Burke desires, but can’t have.

But unlike in “Dirty Dancing,” in the song there is no romance, just a longing for it. All Burke has is her voice in his head, and so desperate is he that even crying is preferable to nothing at all. He’s not even looking for laughter at this point. Just her presence, and her scent, and her tears.
Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times


What I try to do in my music is show how you can come out of the blues and turn the page in life. Someone has to keep the message positive. Someone has to say when you come to the crossroads in life you have to make the right turn. You can’t stand there; you’ve got to keep moving on.
– Solomon Burke, as quoted in Baltimore City Paper, 2005

When he sings, he sits on a throne, wears a fedora and purple lamé suit and fills the hall with his always positive personality. When he isn’t singing, he puts on a natty three-piece suit and holds forth from his wheelchair, which could more aptly be called a mobile pulpit. Burke speaks with such enthusiasm that you half expect him to flap his arms, fly up to the ceiling and throw lightning bolts of joy at all the earthbound pedestrians below.
Charles M. Young, Rolling Stone

Solomon gave me unconditional love before I even knew the meaning of the words. He had a huge body which finally couldn’t stand him up as his plane landed this morning in Amsterdam. But his voice was bigger and his heart overshadowed them both.

I love you, dear Solomon. Thank you for that big heart. I don’t know who’s gonna protect my ass with you gone.
Shawn Amos, Huffington Post

You get on the journey that says you’re going to be 70 this year. This is the time to do the things you promised to do. Do the things you’re supposed to do in the time that the Lord has allowed you to continue to be here. And, gosh, when I look back on my life, as Nat ‘King’ Cole sings, I see all my friends who already made another journey, so it’s time to do all the things I can. I’m so blessed with all my family. What a beautiful moment to make this decade a foundation to do the best things that I can.
– Solomon Burke, as quoted in Rolling Stone

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

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