I am deeply saddened by the passing of the great Solomon Burke. I had the opportunity to talk with him back in May for an interview for Icon Fetch. The first thing he said to me when he answered the phone was “you calling from Dayton? I love Dayton. As I kid I thought that I could get a date, if I went to Dayton!” Then, I told him about one of our greatest exports: Esther Price/Mike Sells Chocolate Covered Potato Chips, to which he replied “I gotta get me some of them!”
I promised to drop some into the mail after our interview. When I started rolling tape he said, “I’m excited…I know this is gonna be a good interview, because we’ve already covered two of my favorite subjects: women and food…ha ha ha!” He continued to reference the potato chips throughout the interview.
As we talked, I was stuck by how magnetic he was, even through the phone. I understood how I could easily have sat in his congregation one Sunday morning and been captivated. His last CD, “Nothing’s Impossible,” had just been released, and you could tell he was extremely proud of it. He got emotional when talking about the recording process, and how producer Willie Mitchell passed away just 10 days after completing the project. We now know that the teaming of the two legends was no accident, and that “Nothing’s Impossible” provides fitting tribute to both of their legacies.
Nearing the end of the interview, Solomon talked of a new project he wanted to do where his fans would pick certain songs and he would record them. Sadly, it’s an album he never saw to completion. After the interview, I told him I had a suggestion for that project. Since he had been such good friends with Sam Cooke, perhaps he could do his take on one of Sam’s songs. At this, he got very quiet and then said “I want to send you something.” He wouldn’t tell me what it was, but a few days later, I received a package containing a DVD of Solomon’s performance at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame Tribute to Sam Cooke. It was a disc that had never been released, but he wanted me to have it. I was floored by a moving duet that he and Aretha Franklin did on that show. The box also contained several Solomon Burke t-shirts in it.
About a week later, I received an email from Solomon’s office saying that he had received my package and that he was thoroughly enjoying the chocolate covered potato chips. At the time, he was gearing up for his first tour of Japan. I was amazed at how much energy he still had.
Through the Icon Fetch show, I’ve been able to interview a long list of performers, and a lot of them gave me great interviews. But, I never felt the connection that I did with Solomon Burke. In doing research for the original interview, I was shocked to learn that he had such little success on the pop charts. Listening to his songs now, it truly is one of the biggest crimes in music that he didn’t receive the success that he truly deserved. Do yourself a favor and check out some of Solomon’s music, be it his classic material for Atlantic, or his final record “Nothing’s Impossible” produced by Willie Mitchell. You will be moved. We have planned a tribute to Solomon Burke to air Monday night at 9pm Eastern.