Archive for December, 2017

Solomon Burke’s “Valley of Tears”

Solomon Burke (1940-2010) was a preacher and a singer who helped shape R&B music when, along with Ray Charles, Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin, he introduced Gospel music into 60s Soul music. A Grammy Award winner and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Burke never had a top twenty hit but recorded 41 albums in his career. The song Valley of Tears was recorded live with the roots duo of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings and is included in his “Live in Nashville” album. Gillian Welch wrote the song for Burke.

The expression “valley of tears” refers to the tribulations of life that Christian doctrine says are only left behind when one leaves the world and enters Heaven. Shakespeare brilliantly referred to it as “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

The phrase “valley of tears” or “vale of tears” appears in literature as far back as the latin Vulgate, a 4th century version of the Bible. Psalm 84:6, the hymn Salve Regina (a prayer to Mary, which came from the Abbey of Cluny in the 12th century) and “Be Still My Soul”, a German hymn from 1752, all have references to the valley of tears.

Richard and Roch

In the interest of full disclosure, a major battle in the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur war between Israel and Syria in 1973 was also named The Valley of Tears. Humans being what they are, the profane invariably follows the sacred.

In his personal and professional life, Burke was certainly familiar with the valley of tears. The integration of Gospel music into secular music was very controversial. Burke was married five times and fathered fifteen children, some of which followed in their father’s footsteps and had an impact on the recording industry. Along with his hectic recording career, his church grew to have about 170 missions and 40,000 members. He assisted The Crippled Children’s Foundation in particular for blind and underprivileged children, while personally being responsible for more than 120 adopted children. Burke also owned funeral parlors in three States, and two of his children have turned his mortuary business into a franchise. Additionally, Burke owned and operated a limousine service and continued to operate companies that supplied theaters and stadiums with his own brand of fast food—Soul Dogs and Soul Corn. It was Burke’s love of cooking and food that was his undoing as he grew to over 350 lbs and was refused the knee and hip replacement surgeries he so desperately needed. Burke died after arriving at Amsterdam airport for another sold-out show on October 10, 2010.

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitar, electric guitars, electric bass, MIDI guitar (B3 organ)
Roch Tassé – drums

Valley of Tears

Photo of Alrick by Kate Morgan

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