One is known as the King of Rock and Soul, the other is a rocker who labors in the shadow of the Boss. Solomon Burke and Joe Grushecky, from opposite ends of Pennsylvania, are also the subject of fine new DVD documentaries.
Everybody Needs Somebody
is the story of Solomon Burke, from his beginnings in West Philadelphia to his hit-making days at Atlantic Records in the early '60s and up to his current renaissance. Burke, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has been making some of the best music of his career in recent years. In 2002, he won a Grammy for
Don't Give Up on Me,
and he has a new album coming out next month.
A rotund and regal presence as he nears 70, Burke takes the filmmakers on a car tour of some of his old Philly haunts, and he also stops by WDAS-AM (1480). Bill Wyman and Tom Jones talk of the soul man's impact on British audiences - the film is a British production - and there are also interviews with producers Don Was, Joe Henry and Jools Holland as well as with music writer Peter Guralnick.
The documentary offers clips old and new of Burke in performance, and they highlight the way the gospel-rooted singer powerfully melds the spiritual and the sexual.
Pittsburgh's Joe Grushecky has led the kind of working-class life his friend Bruce Springsteen often writes about. Nearing 60, he still works as a special-ed teacher to support himself and his family as he pursues his rock-and-roll passion through a career that undeservedly has had more downs than ups.
A Good Life
tells his inspiring story.
Grushecky's association with Springsteen - they have written and performed together, and the Boss produced one of his albums - has been a double-edged sword. The rocker has gained some exposure through it, but it has also led to a perception that he is a Bruce clone.
A Good Life
drives home the point that Grushecky is his own man, with an authentic rock voice forged by his own scuffling experiences as someone who didn't make it to the top, but knows what's really important in life.
Springsteen is among those interviewed for the film, which also features performance clips going back to Grushecky's days leading the Iron City Houserockers in the '70s, when it did seem as if he was on his way to stardom. He's still out there leading the Houserockers (they've dropped the "Iron City") and also performing solo, fighting the good fight.