Solomon Burke, the Grammy-award winning soul musician known as the “King of Rock and Soul,” died on Sunday at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, where he was scheduled to perform a concert. On his website, his family wrote “he was on his way to spread his message of love as he loved to do.” According to his family, Burke died of natural causes.
Burke was responsible for penning “Tonight’s the Night,” “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love,” — covered by the Rolling Stones and Wilson Pickett, among others — and “Cry to Me,” immortalized in the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing.
Born in Philadelphia, he began his career as a preacher, delivering his first sermon when he was just seven years old. His earliest recordings, for Apollo Records, had clear gospel influences — but before long, Burke was signed to Atlantic Records and started incorporating more secular themes. After being named the “King of Rock and Soul” by a radio D.J. in 1964, he often performed in royal regalia — complete with scepter and robe — and sat on a golden throne during performances.
Though he never achieved the levels of fame achieved by Marvin Gaye or James Brown, Burke’s silky voice and articulation patterns influenced an entire generation of musicians — Mick Jagger has said that he tried to imitate Burke’s phrasing on his songs and Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler onced called him “the best soul singer of all time”
In 2001, Burke was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside Aerosmith, Michael Jackson, Queen, The Flamingos, Steely Dan and Ritchie Valens. His induction started somewhat of a career resurgence — he released four new albums in the past decade and recorded songs with the Blind Boys of Alabama, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Zucchero. His final album, Hold on Tight, is due to be released later this month.
Burke is survived by his 21 children, 90 children and 19 great-grandchildren.