Solomon Burke was an important early soul pioneer. On his '60s singles for Atlantic, he brought a country influence into R&B, with emotional phrasing and intricately constructed, melodic ballads and mid tempo songs. At the same time, he was surrounded with sophisticated uptown arrangements and was provided with much of his material by his producers.
The combination of gospel, pop, country, and production polish was basic to the recipe of early soul. While Burke wasn't the only one pursuing this path, not many others did so as successfully. And he was an important influence upon the Rolling Stones, who covered Burke's Cry to Me and Everybody Needs Somebody to Love on their early albums.
Burke came by his gospel roots even more deeply than most soul stars. He was preaching at his family's Philadelphia church and hosting his own gospel radio show even before he'd reached his teens. He began recording gospel and R&B sides for Apollo in the mid- to late '50s. Like several former gospel singers, he was molded into a more secular direction when he signed with Atlantic in the '60s.
Burke had a wealth of high-charting R&B hits in the early half of the '60s, which crossed over to the pop listings in a mild fashion as well. Just Out of Reach, Cry to Me, If You Need Me, Got to Get You Off My Mind, Tonight's the Night, and Goodbye Baby (Baby Goodbye) were the most successful of these, although, he wasn't able to expand his R&B base into a huge pop following as well. He left Atlantic in the late '60s and spent the next decade hopping between various labels, getting his biggest hit with a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary in 1969, and recording an album in the late '70s with cult soulster Swamp Dogg as producer.