For Solomon Burke

In the midst of our railing against religion, it can be easy to forget the human heart that lies within its crumbling machinery. I have long been a lover of traditional gospel music, particularly the kind that developed among African-American Protestantism. While I get nothing from the propaganda undercutting it, I am easily swept up in the emotion of the performance and those lyrics which speak of humanity’s common longing for solace in this world of woe. Naturally, I am even more drawn to gospel music’s secular offspring: blues and soul. In them, I can glory in both the message and the method by which it is expressed.

So it was that I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing yesterday of Solomon Burke, a man who started out as a preacher and became one of the most influential, if lesser known, performers of the last 50 years. His voice, like the body from which it sprang, was heavy and carried an emotional weight that few singers ever attempt, much less approach. But it cut across generations and cultures, bringing Burke a renewed popularity later in life. Indeed, he was en route to a show in the Netherlands when he left us. Fortunately, he also left us some of the finest soul music ever recorded. Let it serve as a reminder that, however far apart we may be in our heads, in our deepest hearts we are after the same thing. With that, I give you:

 

For Solomon Burke

Lay down the swelling brass.

Leave it in silence.

Let it tarnish

while the varnish

and steady guidance

of the piano pass

into still dust upon an empty stage.

***

Pack up the thumping bass.

Pull off all the strings.

Pluck it no more.

The walking roar

of deft fingerings

have given up the chase

of unheard charts filling an unread page.

***

Turn off the popping snare.

Toss the sticks aside.

Tune slack each skin.

Forget the din

of hat, crash, and ride.

What tapping foot is there

to follow where the front-man has now led?

***

Darken the tube-amp’s glow.

Dull the Tele’s strike.

Dim the spotlight

focusing tight

on a breathless mic.

Close the curtains and go.

Alas, the King of Rock and Soul is dead!

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About Buck O'Roon

Buck O'Roon [buhk oh-roon] –noun 1. a southerner of skeptical stripe, recognizable by his deeply furrowed brow and increasing lack of patience for institutionalized horse manure 2. curmudgeon-in-training
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2 Responses to For Solomon Burke

  1. “Liked” it!

    A truly awesome piece of writing.

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