Solomon Burke (March 21, 1940 – October 10, 2010) was an American singer-songwriter, entrepeneur, mortician, and an archbishop of the United House of Prayer For All People. Burke was known as "King Solomon", the "King of Rock 'n' Soul", and as the "Bishop of Soul", and described as "the Muhammad Ali of soul", and as "the most unfairly overlooked singer of soul's golden age". Burke was "the founding father of what was defined as soul music in America in the 1960s", and "a major architect of 1960s soul, infusing post-World War II R&B with gospel roots". and "a key transitional figure bridging R&B and soul", Burke's "sound was a bold merger of orchestrated sophistication and countryish, down-home grit, and his best singles built a Gothic sense of drama and heartbreak. These tracks bridged the gap between the more mannered mainstream rhythm and blues of the Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller songwriting team of the '50s, as exemplified by the Coasters and Drifters, and the gruffer Southern styles of the later '60s, as heard on the Stax Records sides of Otis Redding and Sam & Dave. At one time considered by Jerry Wexler to be "the greatest male soul singer of all time", Burke was "a singer whose smooth, powerful articulation and mingling of sacred and profane themes helped define soul music in the early 1960s". Burke drew from his roots: gospel, soul, and blues, as well as developing his own style at a time when R&B, and rock were both still in their infancy. Artistically, Burke was influenced by the music of the church, as well as by Little Richard. Described as both "Rabelaisian" and also as a "spiritual enigma", "Perhaps more than any other artist, the ample figure of Solomon Burke symbolized the ways that spirituality and commerce, ecstasy and entertainment, sex and salvation, individualism and brotherhood, could blend in the world of 1960s soul music."
During the 55 years that he performed professionally, Burke released 38 studio albums on more than 17 record labels and had 35 songs that charted, including 26 songs that made the Billboard R&B charts, including "Got to Get You Off My Mind" that was #1 in the summer of the 1965, and an additional 9 songs that were only listed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, including 1964's seminal “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”. Burke had over 30 songs make the Cash Box R&B charts, with "Got to Get You Off My Mind" reaching #1, and 23 that charted on their pop chart hits, with seven making Cash Box's Top 40. In 2001, Burke was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a performer. His album Don't Give Up on Me won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album at the 45th Grammy Awards in 2003. By 2005 Burke was credited with selling 17 million albums. Rolling Stone ranked Burke as #89 on its 2008 list of "100 Greatest Singers of All Time".
James Solomon McDonald (later Solomon McDonald Vincent Burke) was born on the upper floor of the home of his maternal grandmother, Eleanor Alma "Mother" Moore (born about 1900 in Florence, South Carolina; died 19 December 1954 in Philadelphia) in a row house at 3036 Mt Vernon Street, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. on Thursday, March 21, 1940. Burke was the oldest child of Josephine Moore (born 1 April 1920 in Panama City, Florida; died 27 August 1990 in Germantown, Pennsylvania) who had been a nurse, taught kindergarten for five years on the School District of Philadelphia, and been a concert singer, and an unknown father. At birth he was consecrated a bishop by his grandmother in the Solomon's Temple, a congregation of the United House of Prayer For All People, founded by her in her home about 1928 in the Black Bottom section of West Philadelphia, after she had a vision indicating: "A child shall lead you." He was the godson of Daddy Grace. In 2006 Burke describes his birth: "I was born upstairs while church was going on downstairs. And nobody heard me, so I guess I was in tune. The band was playing. People shouting and having a good time. I have the trombones and tubas and tambourines and guitars and pianos in my soul. It’s just a normal reaction to me, to hear that rhythm, to hear that beat."