Solomon Burke, the king of soul and rock & roll and now a country high priest, was born on March 21, 1940 in Philadelphia.

By the age of seven, he was performing in his family's church and also to those who tuned in to regular broadcasts on WDAS.

Burke was a radio DJ at 13, first recorded for Apollo Records in 1954, doing gospel and R&B while also going to school for mortuary science.

In 1954, he scored a million-seller with Christmas Presents from Heaven.

A few singles on the Singular label landed Burke a deal with Atlantic Records.

He ended up recording Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms), cut by several country acts including Faron Young and Patsy Cline, but never made much of a dent.

That was until Burke got his voice on it.

The song became a big hit in 1961 on the R&B charts and making the top 40 of the pop charts.

Burke's mainstream success faded after the English music invasion in the sixties but he kept recording and performing after being dumped by Atlantic in 1968.

After leaving Atlantic, he signed with Bell and recorded a minor classic, 1969's Proud Mary and
I Can't Stop before recording for MGM in the early seventies.

Burke struggled to make ends meet during the lean years after suffering a plethora of disastrous recording, publishing and management deals.

Although he long ago broadened his gospel to embrace soul he's still a bishop in the Church Of The House Of God For All People in Los Angeles.

But he kept the wolves from the door with his many sidelines - a mortuary business connected to his church, helped him keep him going.

"We're the first ones to pick you up and the last ones to let you down," he quips.


John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd performed Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, the 1964 hit Burke co-wrote, in the original Blues Brothers movie in 1980.

Then the Bishop got one of his biggest breaks in 1987.

The film Dirty Dancing plucked his heartbreaking Cry to Me for its hugely successful soundtrack

This enabled the singer to buy his palatial home on a hillside above Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley where an assistant greets visitors in a tuxedo.

Next to that front door is a sign alerting visitors: "Beyond this point, no shoes, no swearing, no weapons, no gum chewing. God bless you."

After a career filled with rhythm and blues Burke was awarded membership in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

The singer also chose country songs by Van Morrison and Hank Williams on recent discs.

Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and Morrison were among songwriters who contributed to Burke's stellar 2002 release, Don't Give Up on Me, on Fat Possum Records.

It was on his Grammy award winning 2003 album, Make Do With What You've Got, he cut Hank's tune Wealth Won't Save Your Soul.

Burke referred to it as "one of Hank's great gospel songs, which people weren't familiar with."

The late Waylon Jennings pedal steel guitarist Robby Turner - who toured here with The Highwaymen and Dixie Chicks - and guitarist Reggie Young played on Morrison tune At The Crossroads.

CD REVIEW - 2006

It's no shock soul supremo Solomon Burke reverted to country 46 years after debut hit Just Out of Reach Of My Two Open Arms - cut by Faron Young and Patsy Cline.

But the musical mortician doesn't bury his aching vocals in the strings that strangled the passion of some country peers.

Instead he cut this amazing disc in a magical, mystery tour of the funky sonic canyons of producer Buddy Miller's East Nashville home.

"Buddy knows where to move each song," Burke, 66 and father of 21, confessed of a 10 day session that produced more than 20 tunes.

"We started on the front porch recording. To the living room, from the living room to dining room, from the dining room to kitchen. We ended up on the back porch and the album was over."

It started with acoustic Tom T Hall ballad That's How I Got To Memphis - also cut by Miller - and ends with an evocative finale - the Larry Henley-Red Lane hit Til I Get It Right, replete with strings.

The Bishop stretches out on rollicking Jim Lauderdale tune Seems Like You're Gonna Take Me Back and Kevin Welch's triumphant Millionaire.

He ignites gender reversal in Buddy-Julie Miller cheating tune Does My Ring Burn Your Finger - a hit for Lee Ann Womack.

Emmylou Harris plays a joyous Tammy in We're Gonna Hold On - the George Jones-Earl Montgomery chart topper for Jones and Wynette.

Miller's superb song sequencing ensure the mood swings and tempo tides recede and wash across 14 tunes with little quicksand.

And the other Coalminer's daughter Patty Loveless fuels temptation tryst You're The Kind Of Trouble - penned by Emmylou's ex singing spouse Paul Kennerley and Alan Jackson's nephew Adam Wright and wife Shannon.

Emmylou Harris, Solomon Burke & Buddy Miller

Kennerley and Barry Tashian wrote Honey Where's The Money Gone, adorned with Mickey Raphael's harmonica and Al Perkins lap steel, and followed by Don Williams hurting heat seeker Atta Way To Go.

Sam Bush's fiddle, Perkins dobro and Phil Madeira's accordion are a bluegrass foil to Burke's ebullience in Springsteen's Ain't Got You - entree to Gillian Welch's Valley Of Tears.

Dolly Parton and Patty Griffin join Burke on originals Tomorrow Is Forever and Up To The Mountain on a disc set for longevity despite minimal airplay.

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