I awoke to the sad news that the great soul legend, Solomon Burke, has passed away at the age of 70. He was on his way to a show in Amsterdam when he died of natural causes, according to local authorities.
Of course, Joe Henry fans will remember him not only for his many classic recordings but also for Don't Give Up On Me, which was produced by JH and won the two of them a Grammy. That album marked the beginning of a comeback for Burke and also made JH a name of note in the producing world. It's probably safe to say that many of the JH projects that happened subsequently would not have been possible without the success of Don't Give Up On Me.
Among Burke's many recent recordings, my favorite probably still remains his Buddy Miller-produced country record Nashville, which I noted as my favorite album of 2006. His most recent album, Nothing's Impossible, was produced by the legendary Willie Mitchell, which was Mitchell's last project before passing away. It will now be Burke's last record as well, but that excellent album will is a fitting lasting tribute to the talents of both men.
On a personal note, I once had the great thrill of bumping into Burke as I was leaving my hotel room at the Beverly Hilton. He was surrounded by three young women – yes, in sequin dresses – and headed down to the lobby. He endured an elevator ride of my fanboy gushing and was friendly and chatty. I later learned that he was being given an ASCAP award that evening, presented by Elvis Costello. He would also perform with Costello and Joe Henry that night.
It's a terrible loss for the music world, and Burke will be remembered not only for his classic recordings but also for his late-era albums, which are every bit as vital and important as his early work.