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- Posted on May 13th 2010 2:36PM by David Dacks
The album title is fitting. Burke and Mitchell had discussed working together for more than thirty years before finally meeting each other socially in Memphis in 2008. Mitchell seized the opportunity to abscond with Burke back to his Royal Studios and record him surround him with the same musical finery with which he outfitted Al Green back in the '70s. Though the king-sized, big voiced Burke could never be described as meek, he was powerless to resist.
Oddly enough, the music started with one of Anne Murray's signature songs: 'You Needed Me.'
"It was one of Willie Mitchell's favourite songs, and all the other artists he'd asked to do it couldn't or didn't want to," Burke tells Spinner. "He said 'Solomon, if you're really my friend I'll let you listen to it. If you like it, we'll do it right now, tonight'. This was seven at night; we'd been talking since eleven that morning. We played the record and I said 'that's an incredible song!' He said 'that's good enough for me' and got on the phone. Within the hour all the musicians showed up like working firemen ready to go.
"They ran it down once, I sang it once; they said let's do it again, we did it the second time. I wanted to do it again, but Willie said 'oh no! that's it, let's go to the next one!' Meanwhile, it's one in the morning! Willie says 'hey baby, this is Willie Mitchell's studio, that's how records get made, we work all night here!'"
The sessions lasted ten days as Mitchell worked around the clock to come up with songs for Burke. "It was so inspiring to work with a genius who was just constantly on a roll. He just would not give up, he wouldn't let me stop!" enthuses Burke. "He was 80-something years old, moving around like a football player -- and with hair! He always had a comb in his pocket; combing his hair like Elvis Presley. Just a fascinating character".
Unfortunately, just ten days after the album was completed Mitchell went into cardiac arrest and died. Did Burke sense the end was near? "He wasn't sick, are you kidding? He was pushing me around!" he exhorts.
Burke calls the new record one of the absolute highlights of his career. It's easy to hear why -- it's full-blooded, classy Southern soul with steady rhythms, punchy horns and silky strings, over which Burke's still-powerful and nuanced singing dips in and out. Burke has nothing left to prove "It's not about proving anything, it's about continuing to work. Keep it going, don't stop".
Burke still commands great loyalty from his subjects, even at age 70. Touring hasn't changed much over the years, but the depth of devotion within his fanbase continues to impress him.
"Basically we try to do as many requests as possible, trying to keep the people as happy as possible. The requests have become phenomenal! I'll be in Sweden or Berlin or somewhere and someone will holler out 'Stupidity' [from 1957] and I say, 'Are you kidding me?' I'm very grateful that I have fans that are willing to go that far back in my career to request records."