RIP: Solomon Burke, ‘The Bishop Of Soul,’ Dead At 70

CNN: Soul singer Solomon Burke has died at the age of 70 in the Netherlands, his Dutch representative said Sunday. Burke died of natural causes after arriving at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, his family said in a statement posted on Burke’s website. He was in town to perform for a sold-out show with the Dutch band De Dijk. “This is a time of great sorrow for our entire family. We truly appreciate all of the support and well wishes from his friends and fans. Although our hearts and lives will never be the same, his love, life and music will continue to live within us forever,” his family said. MORE

PHILLY.COM: Solomon Burke — preacher, funeral home director, father of 21 children, and one of the great, if chronically underrated,  American soul singers of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s — was as Philadelphia as they get. Burke died this morning on a flight to Europe. This 2002 Q-and-A with future Phawker Jonathan Valania really captures what it was like to be young, gifted and black in West Philly in the post-war years. Here he talks about working on the poultry line with another music legend, Chubby Checker… MORE

PREVIOUSLY: Solomon Burke is the Muhammad Ali of soul. He is widely considered to be the greatest male soul singer of all 3346_1time by those who have made the genre their life’s work–critics, DJs, A&R people. The competition is formidable: James Brown, Al Green, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and lots of others. And then, as if to fix the crown on his head more securely, they add, “with a borrowed band,” which is to say, “with one hand tied behind his back.”  This is not news to Burke. Born 62 years ago in West Philadelphia, Burke was raised on the belief that he was royalty, that he was chosen for a higher purpose. Indeed, he would one day take over the twin family businesses of sanctifying the living and burying the dead. Friends and family called him “the Bishop.” And after a stretch of living on the streets when the bottom fell out of his early singing career, he studied to become a doctor of mortuary science.  His birth was augured in a dream his grandmother had 12 years prior to his arrival. A deeply religious woman, Eleanora A. Moore–known around town as Mother Moore–started Solomon’s Temple: The Church of God for All People in preparation for his arrival and imminent ascendancy to the pulpit.

Burke was preaching by age 7 and had his own radio ministry by the time he was 12, taking to the road in the form of a holy roller tent show, saving souls up and down the eastern seaboard. Sanctified but never sanctimonious, Burke described his ministry in Peter Guralnick’s Sweet Soul Music as the “Church of Let It All Hang Out,” preaching the core values of “God, money and women, hey, hey, hey; truth, love, peace and get it on.” The ’60s was his golden era, his rise dovetailing with the creative and commercial fortunes of soul music. In the early part of the decade, he more or less kept Atlantic Records in business with an impressive string of R&B chart-toppers like “Just Out of Reach (of My Two Open Arms)” and “Cry to Me.” But by the ’70s soul music was by and large a spent force. Although the hits stopped coming, Burke continued to record and work the lucrative oldies and gospel circuit — referring to this period as the “throne in exile.” His return has been a slow train coming, but it has finally pulled into the station. MORE

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