Solomon Burke — preacher, funeral home director, father of 21 children, and one of the great, if chronically underrated, American soul singers of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s — was as Philadelphia as they get.Burke died this morning on a flight to Europe.This 2002 Q-and-A with future Phawker Jonathan Valania really captures what it was like to be young, gifted and black in West Philly in the post-war years. Here he talks about working on the poultry line with another music legend, Chubby Checker:
He worked in the chicken division; I was in the hot dog and lunch meat division. It was the community meat market: hamburger, 15 cents a pound; hot dogs, 15 cents a pound; necks and backs, 10 cents a pound. Eddie would walk around in a big apron, had about 75 black guys working for him. He gave me a job, said, “You’re in charge of hot dogs. Wash ’em off.” I never handled hot dogs before and I figured you should wash them with some nice hot water, ’cause they was slimy. It was terrible–I knew my mother would never buy none of these. So after I start washing them they start getting nice and clean and real pink and pretty, and they start swelling up. I was like, “Boy, they look good.” So I put them in the display window and I go in the back and wash some more. So I’m hearing all this commotion and shouting out front and I’m thinking, “Boy, those hot dogs are really selling.” Turns out people were horrified. Once they were out there, they shrank down to the size of little Vienna sausages, and I got fired. That was the end of my meat career.
Here’s Burke doing his trademark “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” later a hit for Wilson Pickett and repopularized in the “Blues Brothers” movie.