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Solomon Burke: The King Of Rock And Soul

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Solomon Burke: The King Of Rock And Soul

Music Interviews

Solomon Burke: The King Of Rock And Soul

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Solomon Burke is back. Truth be told, he never really left. The soul music legend took a hiatus from music 10 years ago to devote his time to preaching, but in 2006 recorded an album of country music called "Nashville." Over the years, besides making music, preaching and becoming a grandfather to almost 100 children, Solomon Burke operated a chain of mortuaries.

He turned 70 this year, and the Hall of Fame musician is reclaiming his throne as the kind of rock and soul with a new recording called "Nothing's Impossible."

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. SOLOMON BURKE (Singer, Preacher): (Singing) Early in the morning, I'm thinking of you. Is it raining? Is it storming? Or even if the skies are blue...

HANSEN: Solomon Burke joins us from the studio at NPR West. Your Majesty, thank you so much for speaking with us.

Mr. BURKE: Thank you for having me. What a - you know, I was wondering who this guy was you were talking about. This sounds so good. I said, man, I need to get his record.

HANSEN: I'm going to take you back a little bit, if I may. I received from Rhino Records this big box of soul, and in it are various singles and little, like, baseball cards with musicians. You're on there. There you are. Man, youve got this shiny jacket on, a nice big ring on your pinky finger. But I found you in the scream category. They had three: beg, shout and scream. And they said you're a screamer. Do you believe it?

Mr. BURKE: That's wonderful. I mean...

HANSEN: But it was kind of your style, too. I mean, you have one of these really big voices. The song that they put in the collection is called "Got to Get You Off of My Mind." And, you know, when you get to revving up, I would say it's kind of a scream.

(Soundbite of song, "Got to Get You Off of My Mind")

Mr. BURKE: (Singing) Some day, this old heart of mine, gonna find a love that'll make me shine. Shine like diamonds and gleam like gold, and I'll find someone that'll rock my soul. I got to get you off of my mind. I know...

The song of "Got to Get You Off My Mind" was written from the memory of the late Sam Cooke. And I wrote it the night of his passing. Very special moment. A lot of things was happening in my life at that time. I lost a very dear friend who I was with that night, and at that time my wife then decided we should break up. So, it was two things working for me at one time. And when you listen to the words of the song you're listening to part of my life.

HANSEN: There's a song on the new CD called "Dreams."

Mr. BURKE: Oh, yeah.

HANSEN: And one point you're saying, please don't wake me or I'm going to start to scream.

Mr. BURKE: Have you ever had one of those great dreams and you say, this is so fantastic, this is so real, I really hope this is not a dream?

(Soundbite of song, "Dreams")

Mr. BURKE: (Singing) Please, don't wake me, don't shake me, don't wake me from this dream. If you do, I'll scream, scream, scream, scream. Oh, dreams, dreams, dreams are meant, if dreams are meant for dreamers, dreamers, oh, like me, like me, like me and you...

When I listen to what you just mentioned, it makes me realize now that I was saying, don't wake me from this dream. I'll never get a chance to do this again and this opportunity that I had to work with one of the world's greatest producers and arrangers and writers and musicians, the late Willie Mitchell.

HANSEN: He passed away.

Mr. BURKE: Yes, 10 days after this record was finished.

HANSEN: I'm talking with Solomon Burke. His new record is called "Nothing's Impossible." The record itself was pretty serendipitous. I mean, didn't he say now that we're in the same room you better get behind that microphone?

Mr. BURKE: He certainly did. Matter of fact, for 30 years we've been communicating over the phone and not meeting each other, not actually seeing each other. And I was in Mississippi, in Philadelphia, Mississippi, performing at a casino a few years back. And I said, you know what, we're this close to Memphis - I told my kids, I said let's just take the car and let's go into Memphis and I want to see this guy Willie Mitchell. I came and it was like coming home.

And meeting with him, we laughed, we cried, we told jokes and we bought pizza and chicken. And he said, man, you just stand right here, man, we're going to make a record before you leave here. And I says, man, it's 12:00 at night. He said I got the musicians. I'll get those suckers out of bed.

HANSEN: And he did.

Mr. BURKE: In 45 minutes, they were all there. They were original musicians that recorded for him for years, that made all the Al Green hits and all the great hits that he recorded. They all showed up by firemen, I mean, like, you know, pulling their suspenders up. And we made three records, you know, within that 24-hour period. What an amazing situation. My daughter Candy wrote a song on this album even.

HANSEN: Which one?

Mr. BURKE: "The Error of Your Ways."

HANSEN: "The Error of Your Ways."

Mr. BURKE: And that's an exciting and a interesting song. I'm saying, where did she come up with that, you know? And he's, don't worry about where she came up with it. Me and her writing it. You just stand there and wait. We'll let you sing it in a minute.

(Soundbite of song, "The Error of Your Ways")

Mr. BURKE: (Singing) So, now you got me where you want me. Don't let this love slip away. I loved you once before but this time I'm here to stay. Regrets, I can't take away...

HANSEN: You know, this song, "The Error of Your Ways," it's interesting because you've got the blues sound, you know, the soul sound, but there's also strings as well.

Mr. BURKE: Well, that's just magic. That was the magic of Willie Mitchell.

(Soundbite of song, "The Error of Your Ways")

Mr. BURKE: (Singing) Well, it's been a few hours, it's been a few days since I've seen the error, the error of my ways, oh baby...

HANSEN: Preaching the Gospel was your first calling. You were...

Mr. BURKE: Still is, it still is.

HANSEN: It sill is.

Mr. BURKE: The original calling.

HANSEN: Are you still preaching?

Mr. BURKE: Right now.

HANSEN: Um-hum. Right now, right here in this interview.

Mr. BURKE: Right in this room in this interview. The only thing we're not doing is raising an offering.

HANSEN: That's true. And you can't put your hand on my head.

Mr. BURKE: No, but I can send a special healing out to you right now.

HANSEN: There we go. I can feel it.

Mr. BURKE: And I send the blessings and healing to you and your family and your loved ones that God will bless you and give you long life and good health.

HANSEN: Amen.

Mr. BURKE: Amen, amen.

(Soundbite of song, "Nothing Is Impossible")

Mr. BURKE: (Singing) The way I see things today...

HANSEN: That tune, "Nothing Is Impossible," I mean, you know, it's metaphoric. Here you are, 70 years old and doing a really, you know, kick-butt record. But I'm listening to you sing that phrase, nothing's impossible, and that ble -that last syllable, man, what a low note that is.

(Soundbite of song, "Nothing Is Impossible")

Mr. BURKE: (Singing) ...nothing is impossible to your dreams. Make them come true. Nothing, nothing is impossible...

HANSEN: Has your range changed over the years? I mean, you have a beautiful baritone but the fact that you can still hit that low note.

Mr. BURKE: There's different registers that I can do. It depends on the timing, it depends on the song, it depends on the mood and the atmosphere.

HANSEN: What kind of reaction do you get when people find out that you have a Doctor of Mortuary Science, that you're...

Mr. BURKE: Well, I'm just an old mortician. My daughter is a mortician now, Victoria, she's the mortician in the family. And basically the church and the music is my main interest right now. And all of my grandchildren - I have 90 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

HANSEN: It's 90. What?

Mr. BURKE: Ninety, and I'm still counting. I haven't called home today so...

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: You know, now I...

Mr. BURKE: ...God has blessed me.

HANSEN: Yeah, you have been blessed and I also understand why Rolling Stone magazine calls you the king of procreation.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BURKE: Okay. I'm not going to laugh at that.

HANSEN: You already did.

Mr. BURKE: That's very nice.

HANSEN: Well, let me ask you something a little bit serious though: as a soul survivor, do you have any wisdom to impart to the new talent about the music business?

Mr. BURKE: Don't give up. Keep off the drugs and learn to love, learn to understand that nothing is impossible.

HANSEN: Solomon Burke, his new recording is called "Nothing is Impossible" and he joined us from the studios of NPR West. What a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much.

Mr. BURKE: It was an honor talking to you and say hello to all back there for me, would you please?

HANSEN: I sure shall.

(Soundbite of song, "Nothing Is Impossible")

Mr. BURKE: (Singing) Nothing, nothing is impossible, all is possible for me and for you...

HANSEN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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