ADVENT CALENDAR: Dec 10th - Solomon Burke - 'Presents For Christmas'

A few years ago in 2013, I spent part of December listening to an old John Peel show from Christmas 1992, featuring (in the great man's own words) "the Christmas songs that Santa forgot". Here is one song that struck me straight away. When I locate the mp3 disc that contains this classic Peel show (meaning that I have to access my database) I will spend another festively-flavoured evening with JP.

Christmas was a time of year that was very close to the heart of Solomon Burke. Aged 14 years old, in December of 1954, he wrote a song as a gift for his beloved Grandmother, who bought him his first guitar for Christmas that year, giving it to him a week early so he could sing it to her. In a sad twist of fate, his Grandmother would die the very next day. The young Burke sang at her funeral, and impressed members of the church so much that he was asked to perform at their Christmas program the following weekend. He stole the show, which was attended by New York record label owner Bess Berman, who signed him on the spot. In the weeks before the year ended, Burke recorded the song he had written for his Grandmother, 'Christmas Presents From Heaven', releasing it as his debut single in early 1955.

Eleven years later, the Philadelphia-born singer had shaped the sound of rhythm and blues, and established himself as one of the founding fathers of soul music in the 1960s. In 1966, Atlantic Records released the rollicking Presents For Christmas, which years later has endured as one of the finest festive recordings, although still relatively underrated. After a long career, Burke passed away in 2010 aged 70.


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