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Clip: Solomon Burke brings soul to 'capital of gospel'

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  • Carl Zimring
    Solomon Burke brings soul to capital of gospel June 3, 2005 BY DAVE HOEKSTRA Staff Reporter
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 3, 2005
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      <http://www.suntimes.com/output/music/wkp-news-gospel03.html>

      Solomon Burke brings soul to 'capital of gospel'

      June 3, 2005

      BY DAVE HOEKSTRA Staff Reporter

      Solomon Burke is a mountain of sanctification and soul. But all trails in
      his life lead back to his grandmother Eleanora A. Moore, who founded
      Burke's church, the House of God for All People. Known as the "Wonder Boy
      Preacher," Burke delivered his first sermon at age 7 in his hometown of
      Philadelphia. By age 12, he was ministering over the radio and traveling
      throughout the Southeast on weekend religious crusades.

      So Burke is a grand choice to headline this year's Chicago Gospel Music
      Festival at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on the Pritzker Pavilion Stage in Millennium
      Park. He's best known for sweet soul hits from the '50s, such as "Cry to
      Me" and "Down in the Valley" (with Dionne Warwick singing gospel
      background), and his last album, "Make Do With What You Got," features
      gospel versions of Hank Williams' "Wealth Won't Save Your Soul" and "At the
      Crossroads," which Van Morrison wrote for him. Burke will sing in front of
      his 14-piece group and Chicago's Destiny Worship Center Choir.

      Soul, of course, came out of gospel on the power of Chicago-based voices
      such as Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls and Curtis Mayfield. But what is the
      difference between gospel and soul?

      "The secret is that gospel is the soul of myself," Burke answered in a
      recent interview from his home in Los Angeles. "It brings on the purities
      of the foundation and roots of what I am about, where I come from and where
      I am going."

      In fact, last week Burke released "Saved by the DNA," an all-gospel album
      on his own GTR/The One label. His grandmother adorns the cover. The inner
      sleeve features pictures of Burke's family, but it would take a box set to
      get everyone in the liner notes. Burke has 21 children, 75 grandchildren
      and 13 great-grandchildren.

      "And still counting," he said in a youthful chatter. Then he returned to
      his grandmother: "Her spirit still lives with my children and my children's
      children. You can see her special mark in all of us."

      One of the standout gospel tracks on the new disc is "God Wants You to Have
      a Happy Birthday," which Burke co-wrote with one of his daughters.

      "Somebody told me, 'Yesterday was my birthday,' and I said, 'No, no, today
      is your birthday. Every day above ground is a birthday, every night is
      Christmas Eve. Something new comes about. Time is something we can't put a
      clock on."

      Burke does look forward to his Chicago visits.

      "Chicago is the capital of gospel, blues, country and pizza," he said.

      Burke loves his pizza, but after tipping the scales at 400 pounds for the
      last several years he is beginning to suffer hip and knee problems. In
      January, he embarked on a five-days-a-week swimming program. He also
      attended classes on proper eating at Duke University in Durham, N.C. -- a
      great spot for barbecue. In 1988, I had a four-course meal with Burke and
      his wife at a Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles. The waiter brought us two
      full tables of appetizers, which included shrimp toast, barbecued spare
      ribs, hot chicken and egg rolls. We were eating for four.

      "I've been losing [weight] gradually," he said. "I count the calories and
      back away from the salts. And too much sugar. I love my pies and my cakes,
      but I've learned to eat a small portion just to get the taste. You don't
      have to eat a 22-ounce steak to enjoy the steak."

      So far, Burke has lost 38 pounds, and his goal is to drop 150. Once he has
      lost that weight, he will be healthy enough to undergo hip and knee surgery.

      "I have never had surgery in my life," he said. "This will be an exciting
      time. At age 65, here we go."

      While in Chicago, Burke also will sing songs from "Make Do With What You
      Got," (Shout! Factory), an organicMuscle Shoals-influenced project
      featuring Memphis guitarist Reggie Young (latter-day Elvis Presley, early
      Jimmy Buffett, Willie Nelson), Ray Parker Jr. of "Ghostbusters" fame on
      lead guitar and Burke's longtime gospel organist, Rudy Copeland. The band
      is a perfect fit for Burke's profound voice, which ranges from a church
      crescendo and a husky country rumble. His most powerful performance is
      delivered from a gutbucket country-soul version of the Rolling Stones' "I
      Got the Blues."

      Burke recorded Bob Dylan's "What Good Am I" at the suggestion of the
      songwriter. Dylan included "What Good Am I" on 1989's "Oh, Mercy."

      "I would love to ordain Bob," said Burke, who still preaches once a month
      in Los Angeles. "He has spiritual messages he puts out around the world.
      That is what ministry is about. People are preaching about Daniel and the
      lion's den, but we need to preach and teach about reality and truth."

      Unlike Dylan, Burke ministers through e-mail (houseofgod4ap@...).

      "My grandmother used to say to wait 30 years and watch how you can
      communicate with the world without being there," said Burke. "Look what you
      can do with the power of prayer on your BlackBerry [wireless communication
      device]. I'd say, 'Yeah, sure, Grandma. I love you, I respect you and
      you're a prophet. So you must be right.' But now I know she is right. She
      had the vision."

      Burke's uncle ran a funeral home in Philadelphia, which led to Burke
      obtaining a doctorate in mortuary science. His grandmother died on Dec. 19,
      1954. Burke was 14 years old.

      "She laid in the state room for four days," he said. "That was a hard time
      for us. Believe it or not, by the 20th of December, I won a recording
      contract [with Apollo Records]. By the 23rd of December, my record
      ['Christmas Presents from Heaven'] was on the radio. This is the miracle
      and blessings of God. When you believe, you receive. You doubt, you do
      without."

      FESTIVAL LINEUP
      The 21st annual Chicago Gospel Music Festival takes place this weekend at
      and around Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Festival hours are
      4-9:30 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more
      information, call (312) 744-3315 or visit the Web site,
      www.cityofchicago.org/special events.

      The schedule of entertainment is as follows:

      TODAY
      Jay Pritzker Pavilion Stage
      6 p.m. -- Angie Spivey & the Voices of Victory
      6:40 p.m. -- Mark Hubbard & the United Voices for Christ
      7:15 p.m. -- Byron Cage
      8 p.m. -- Dorinda Clark Cole
      8:30 p.m. -- The Williams Brothers

      SATURDAY
      Day Stage
      11:40 a.m. -- The Bank One Gospel Choir
      Noon -- Urban Psalmist Dana Divine
      12:30 p.m. -- Lights of Zion Mimes
      1 p.m. -- Joshua's Troop
      1:25 p.m. -- Stephen & Woola LaFlora
      2:05 p.m. -- Dwayne Lee
      2:45 p.m. -- New Orleans Exchange Artist, Nancy Armstrong & Company
      3:20 p.m. -- Just Friends
      3:55 p.m. -- Fortitude

      Jay Pritzker Pavilion Stage
      5 p.m. -- Doc McKenzie & the Hi-Lites
      5:45 p.m. -- Concert pianist Dana Kristina-Joi Morgan
      6:10 p.m. -- Lights of Zion Mimes
      6:20 p.m. -- "Unity Segment" featuring the Bright Star C.O.G.I.C. Mass
      Choir and the Apostolic Faith Church Mass Choir
      7:30 p.m. -- Solomon Burke accompanied by the Destiny Worship Center Choir
      8:30 p.m. -- The Rance Allen Group

      SUNDAY
      Day Stage
      Noon -- Doc McKenzie & the Hi-Lites
      12:35 p.m. -- The Stars of Heaven
      1:10 p.m. -- The Universal Jubilaires
      1:45 p.m. -- The Windy City SpiritualaireS
      2:15 p.m. -- The Inspirational Souls
      2:45 p.m. -- Joey & Veronica Woolfalk
      3:15 p.m. -- Pierre Walker & Project Sanctified
      3:45 p.m. -- Rev. Roney Strong & the Sensational Strong Family

      Jay Pritzker Pavilion Stage
      5 p.m. -- Total Living Network's Inspiration Sensation
      5:20 p.m. -- "A Touch of Chicago's Gospel Pioneers," featuring evangelist
      Luvonia Whittley, Rodessa Porter, Robert Williams and Geraldine Gay
      Hambric, hosted by Dr. Lucius Hall
      6:15 p.m. -- Ray Bady
      6:50 p.m. -- "The Mahalia Jackson Tribute" featuring Gina Thurston, Annette
      "Queenie" Lenox and LaWonda Campbell
      7:45 p.m. -- The "Power In Praise Experience" Tour, featuring Tye Tribbett
      & GA, J. Moss, Israel & New Breed and Mary Mary
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