Soul legend Solomon Burke died Oct. 10 on the way to a concert in Amsterdam. He was 70 years old.
After the news of Burke's death spread, All Things Considered host Melissa Block spoke with musician and producer Joe Henry, who shepherded Burke's 2002 comeback album, Don't Give Up On Me. She asked him why Burke's fame never reached the level of other legendary soul singers, like Sam Cooke or Marvin Gaye.
"I'm sure he wondered about that himself," Henry said. "It's hard to say why he didn't connect the way a Sam Cooke did. He didn't have the matinee good looks… but people responded to Solomon with just as much passion, it seems to me. Sometimes the stars don't line up, or sometimes the stars just have other work for you to do."
Burke had fans where it counted, however. Just look at the songwriting credits on Don't Give Up On Me: Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Van Morrison. All of them contributed new or unreleased songs for Burke to sing. It was quite the departure from Burke's earlier years, when he felt he had been taken advantage of by producers and record execs.
In fact, over the years, Burke made sure he had other sources of income, in case music didn't pay the bills, including a number of mortuaries.
"Solomon had all kind of sidelines going that he maintained," Henry said. "There's the famous story: James Brown was supposedly furious that he was off to the side of the stage at the Apollo Theater frying chicken and selling it to performers as they came and left the stage. It was always a part of his MO: to continue to be on the hustle — and I say that in the most admiring way possible."
When Henry heard that Burke had died, he went back to the 1962 hit "Cry To Me."
"That was my point of entry," Henry said, "and I still hear it like the revolution that it was."