Solomon Burke - A Christmas Prayer (Savoy SCS-0002)
A Christmas Prayer
You know, Solomon Burke was all about Christmas. In December of 1954, when he was fourteen years old, he wrote a song as a gift for the Grandmother he loved so much. As it turned out, she had bought him his first guitar for Christmas that year, and gave it to him a week early so he could sing it to her. As fate would have it, this beloved Grandmother would die the very next day. When some local Church people heard him sing at her funeral, they asked him to perform at their Christmas program the following weekend. Solomon brought the house down with his heartfelt version of The Old Ship of Zion, and was approached after the show by fabled New York record label owner Bess Berman, who signed him on the spot. Before the year was out, she would cut him singing that song he had written for his Grandmother, Christmas Presents From Heaven, and release it as Apollo 485 in early 1955. It was Solomon Burke's first record.
For Christmas 1966, Atlantic would release another song Solomon had written, the rollicking Presents For Christmas, which remains one of the mainstays of those 'Soul of Christmas' type compilations you see all the time. I love when he does that Sam Cooke thing there in the middle, and says "that's from my old friend, y'all - my old Soul friend..." Yes, Solomon was deep. He could surprise you, like releasing the self-penned "All I Want For Christmas" as the B side of "I Can't Stop Loving You" on an MGM single in 1972... suffice it to say that this most spiritual of Holidays was never far from his heart.
When Solomon decided to 'go Gospel' in the 1980's, it wasn't long before he convinced his new label, Savoy, to let him do something for Christmas. In 1982, they would release a 12 inch single (which were all the rage back then) of the most profound Christmas music Burke had ever recorded. I've put his incredible version of Silent Night (which also leads the list of the twenty most Soulful Christmas Songs over at Deep Soul Heaven) up on The A Side, and it never fails to knock me out. This B side of that 'Big Single' we have here today provides an even deeper glimpse into the heart of this greatest of all Soul singers, and the genuine love he had for all mankind.
This Christmas, the first one in seventy years without Solomon Burke, may you and your family find something in his prayer that speaks to you, and helps to light the way.
"All Is Well... Peace."