"Cry to Me" is a song written by Bert Russell a/k/a Bert Berns, first recorded under the production of Bert Berns by Solomon Burke, who released the song in 1962. Other versions of the song were later recorded by the Rolling StonesBetty Harris and Loleatta Holloway among others.

Background[edit source | editbeta]Edit

On December 6, 1961 Burke recorded one of his best known songs, "Cry to Me",[2] "an ode to loneliness and desire"[3] "one of the first songs to unify country, gospel and R&B in one package",[4] that is considered "the paradigm for Southern soul ballads." "Cry to Me" was written (as Bert Russell), conducted and arranged by Klaus Ogermann[5] and produced by Bert Berns,[6] "a roly-poly white New Yorker with a deep love and empathy for black music despite a formal music education at the Juilliard School Of Music and a music background far removed from the searing soul in which, by 1963, he specialised",[7] with whom Burke had a difficult relationship. Burke "distrusted the young producer",[8] and often spoke of him disparagingly,[9] but later acknowledged Berns as "a genius" and "a great writer, a great man."[10] Cissy Houston, who provided backing vocals on several of Burke's songs that were produced by Berns, believed "Burke changed his mind about Bert as soon as Sol started working with him in the studio. Bert's emotion-charged songs and Sol's gospel delivery was a marriage made in heaven."[11]Although Burke recognized Berns's skill for crafting hit records, he rejected two Berns compositions, "Hang on Sloopy" (later recorded by (The McCoys), and "A Little Bit of Soap", a recent hit for The Jarmels. Burke explained in 2004: "I felt a little unsafe about it, because they were pushing me in an ethnic market, so why would I want to say that (about soap) to my people? It didn't have the meaning it needed to have." In frustration after Burke had rejected his song choices, Berns offered him a final song, "Cry to Me", which Berns sang to him very slowly. According to Burke in a 2008 interview: "I said 'That's terrible. It's just too slow for me, I don't like slow songs.' And Mr Wexler says, 'Listen this guy writes for you, you're pissing him off. You're pissing me off, too.' (Laughs) I tried to sing it a couple of times that way, couldn't even feel it. Then I asked the young man in the studio, the engineer Tommy Dowd, 'Could we have them speed this up?'".[12] The Personnel on the Solomon Burke recording included Leon Cohen on Alto Sax, Jesse Powell on Tenor sax, Hank Jones on Piano, Robert Mosely on Organ, Don Arnone, Al Caiola, Bucky Pizzarelli and Everett Barksdale on Guitars: Art Davis on Bass, and Gary Chester on Drums

Chart release and covers[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Released in 1962, "Cry to Me" b/w "I Almost Lost My Mind" (Atlantic 2131) became Burke's second entry in the US charts, peaking at #5 on the R&B charts (and #44 Pop).[12] On March 20, 1962 Burke sang "Cry to Me" on American Bandstand.[13]

The song has been covered many times since: Betty Harris' rendition (also produced by Bert Berns) reached #10 in September 1963, The Rolling Stones recorded the song for their 1965 album Out of Our HeadsThe Pretty Things also recorded it in 1965, Eric Burdon recorded it for his 1980 album Darkness Darkness and Loleatta Holloway recorded it in 1975. A version by The Staccatos (a local South African group) charted for 38 weeks in 1969 and reached the #1 spot in that country.

The song received renewed exposure in 1987 with its inclusion in the pivotal love scene in the blockbuster motion picture Dirty Dancing, and is the climactic song ending Act One of the musicalDirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage.

The song was sampled in "December" by Nikki & Rich off their Next Best Thing EP in 2010.

Impact[edit source | editbeta]Edit

After "Cry to Me", Burke became one of the first performers to be called a soul artist.[14] In "Cry to Me", and in his "most popular recordings from 1962 onward, elements of the African-American folk-preaching style", which incorporated "the fusion of speech and song", "the use of repetition or elongation for emphasis", and the improvisation of "hollers and vocal melismas", the "flowers and curlicues of gospel singing",[15] are salient.[16] Burke always had his pulpit in the recording studio.[17]

The Rolling Stones version[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Personnel[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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