THE HAGUE — US singer Solomon Burke, crowned “The King of Rock ‘N Soul” during a career spanning five decades, died at Amsterdam airport on Sunday after flying in for a concert. He was 70.
Burke, an ordained minister who required a wheelchair because of his weight, died of natural causes shortly after his flight from Los Angeles landed at Amsterdam-Schiphol airport, said Willem Venema, who organised the singer’s concerts in the Netherlands.
Burke was travelling with his manager and his daughter, who witnessed his death, said Venema, who runs Double Vee Concerts.
The singer was due to perform on Tuesday evening in Amsterdam with Dutch group De Dijk to promote an album they had recorded together, and the 1,500-capacity Paridiso venue had sold out in two hours.
“Solomon was going to sing their lyrics which had been specially translated for him from Dutch to English,” said Jacco Lenen, a promoter at Double Vee.
The singer’s body would be returned to the US as soon as administrative formalities were complete, said an employee at Schiphol’s mortuary.
Burke, whose songs found a new generation of audiences through the soundtracks to movies such as “The Blues Brothers” and “Dirty Dancing”, continued to sing and perform around the world and had made it clear in recent interviews he had no intention of retiring despite celebrating his 70th birthday.
“I’m still on a journey walking up the King’s Highway, carrying that seed of hope and spreading that word that love is the answer,” he told the USA Today newspaper.
Born on March 21, 1940 in Philadelphia, the rhythm ‘n blues star was most famous for “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” which was recorded by the Rolling Stones and became the hit song from the 1980 film “The Blues Brothers”.
His style was largely gospel and sometimes country, while his youthful voice and performances were similar to those of the late soul legend, James Brown.
Burke was father to 21 children and had 90 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren, according to his official website, which lists the late Pope John Paul II as among his fans.
He was also a preacher and ran a funeral agency.
The singer recorded his first album “Christmas Present from Heaven” in 1956 and it sold a million copies.
Between 1961 and 1968, Burke released 32 singles with Atlantic Records. He continued to record and perform in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
The legendary Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler as described Burke as “the best soul singer of all time”.
In 2001 Burke was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the same year as Michael Jackson and Paul Simon, which says on its website that his “versatile, force-of-nature voice combines gospel fervor, country gentility and R&B grit.”
The following year, Burke was awarded a Grammy for the best blues album for “Don’t Give Up On Me”.