May 13, 2008 / 12:48 AM / 11 years ago

Famous pals help singer Solomon Burke light "Fire"

File photo shows soul artist Solomon Burke performing during a concert at the 40th Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, late July 13, 2006. Picture taken July 13, 2006. REUTERS/ARC/Dominic Favre

DETROIT (Billboard) - Soul legend Solomon Burke says there’s no great secret to getting major artists to write songs for his albums.

“You call friends and say, ‘Do you have a song for ol’ Solomon Burke?”‘ the singer and ordained minister told Billboard.com with a laugh.

That approach worked like a charm for his forthcoming “Like a Fire,” due June 10 on Shout! Factory. The album features a pair of songs by Eric Clapton and contributions from Ben Harper, Keb’ Mo’ and Jesse Harris.

“Eric,” Burke recalls, “says, ‘Yeah, man, I got one. Lemme call you back in about three days,’ and out comes ‘Like a Fire.”‘ But “Thank You,” which Burke and Clapton co-wrote, was a bonus.

“He says, ‘You know what, Solomon? I have an idea. I’ve got the music, I’ve got the beginning, but you’ve got to finish it ‘cause I’ve got so many things going on. All I can say (lyrically) is ... ‘Thank you.’ And I said, ‘Wow! Whoo! And we finished it off, and he was so happy with it.”

The Harper collaboration on “A Minute to Rest and a Second to Pray” was “a great opportunity, a great privilege and a wonderful moment in time” that came as a surprise to its writer, too.

“When they brought Ben in, that was my first time meeting him,” Burke recalls. “(Executive producer) Shawn Amos said, ‘We’ve got this great Ben Harper song. Sing the song, Ben!’ Ben says, ‘Man, I’m not finished yet,’ but I said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Stay right here in the studio with me and we’ll finish it. You write it, I’ll sing it. Let’s go.”‘

Harper, Harris and Keb’ Mo’ all perform on their contributions to “Like a Fire.” Burke, who begins touring to support “Like a Fire” on May 23 in Detroit, is cutting another version of “Thank You” for a forthcoming gospel album called “The Truth,” which he hopes to release it later this year and which he promises “is gonna be the most different gospel album you’ve ever heard.”

Reuters/Billboard

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