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Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Song "Cry to Me", Sung by Solomon Burke

The song "Cry to Me" is sung late in the scene where Baby Houseman comes to Johnny Castle's cabin. When she arrives, Johnny is alone and playing Otis Redding's song These Arms of Mine on his record player. In this song's lyrics, a man is alone and thinking about embracing a woman, named Baby, whom he desires:
These arms of mine,
They are lonely,
Lonely and feeling blue.

These arms of mine,
They are yearning,
Yearning from wanting you.

And if you would let them hold you,
Oh, how grateful I will be.

These arms of mine,
They are burning,
Burning from wanting you.

These arms of mine,
They are wanting,
Wanting to hold you.

Come on, come on, Baby,
Just be my little woman.
Just be my lover.
The song continues to be heard in the background as Baby tries to explain to Johnny that he should not worry about her father's anger about the abortion.

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The conversation about her father's anger is concluded, and then Baby asks Johnny to dance. At that moment, the next record falls and begins to play the song "Cry to Me" by Solomon Burke. Baby and Johnny dance to the song with growing sexuality.


In this second song too, a man is alone and thinking about a woman, named Baby, whom he desires. He imagines that the woman likewise is lonely -- so lonely that she is even crying. He imagines that they will get together and simply go for a walk.
When your baby leaves you all alone
And nobody calls you on the phone,
Don't you feel like crying?

Well, here I am, my honey.
Come on, Baby, cry to me.

When you're all alone in your lonely room
And there's nothing but the smell of her perfume
Don't you feel like crying?

Nothing could be sadder than a glass of wine alone.
Loneliness loneliness, it's just a waste of your time.

But you don't ever you don't ever have to walk alone.
Come take my hand, Baby, won't you walk with me?
Actually, the lyrics are not clear about whether the man or the woman is the lonely person. Maybe the singing man is not lonely but he understands that the woman is lonely, and so his is inviting her to come to him.

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I don't think the song works well when sung by a woman, because men are not supposed to cry. However, I think that a man-woman duet works, because then they both are crying.




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Although Johnny happened to be alone in his cabin, he was not generally lonely. Johnny had been at the resort all summer and had many friends -- Billy Kostecki, Penny Johnson, his other fellow dancers and hotel employees and his various "bungalow bunnies". Johnny was teaching dance to the guests and was planning dances for the talent show. Johnny knew also people at other nearby hotels, such as the Sheldrake.

The lonely person in this scene is Baby. She is basically a loner, a bookworm. She has been at the resort for only a couple of weeks. She does not want to spend time with her parents or sister. She apparently does not socialize with other guests.

The resort employees are not supposed to socialize with her. Neil Kellerman is able and willing to socialize  with her, but she avoids him.

Because Johnny is not lonely, he does not go visit Baby. Rather, because Baby is lonely, she goes to visit Johnny without being invited. It's not clear that he missed her or wanted her to visit, especially after he had been insulted by her father.

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The song "Cry to Me" was written by Bert Berns, whose life through 1963 is described by Wikipedia as follows:
Bertrand Russell "Bert" Berns (November 8, 1929 – December 30, 1967), also known as Bert Russell and (occasionally) Russell Byrd, was an American songwriter and record producer of the 1960s. ...

Born in the Bronx, New York City, to Russian Jewish immigrants, Berns contracted rheumatic fever as a child, an illness that damaged his heart and would mark the rest of his life, resulting in his early death. Turning to music, he found consonance in the sounds of his African-American and Latino neighbors. As a young man, Berns danced in mambo nightclubs, and made his way to Havana before the Cuban Revolution.

Shortly after his return from Cuba, ... he signed as a $50/week songwriter with Robert Mellin Music at 1650 Broadway in 1960. His first hit record was "A Little Bit of Soap", performed by the Jarmels on Laurie Records in 1961.

Berns himself had a short-lived career as a recording artist, and in 1961, under the name "Russell Byrd", Berns scored his only Billboard Hot 100 appearance with his own composition, "You'd Better Come Home", which peaked at Number 50. That song would later be recorded by the Isley Brothers, and featured as the B-side of their 1962 single "Twistin' With Linda". Also in 1962, the Isley Brothers recorded "Twist and Shout" on Wand Records, written by Berns and Phil Medley.

Berns also hit the charts in late 1962 with the Exciters' "Tell Him" on United Artists, and with Solomon Burke's "Cry to Me" on Atlantic Records. ...

Berns's early work with Solomon Burke brought him to the attention of Atlantic label chiefs Ahmet Erteg√ľn and Jerry Wexler. In 1963, Berns ... [became] the staff producer at Atlantic [record company], where he wrote and produced hits for Solomon Burke ("Everybody Needs Somebody to Love"), the Drifters ("Under the Boardwalk" and "Saturday Night at the Movies"), Barbara Lewis ("Baby I'm Yours" and "Make Me Your Baby"), Little Esther Phillips ("Hello Walls"), Ben E. King, Wilson Pickett and LaVern Baker.
http://www.bertberns.com/jukebox/solomon_burke.html
Solomon Burke and Bert Berns in the early 1960s
Music journalist Joel Selvin has characterized Berns' musical talent as follows:
Berns was the funky one, the street cat, the producer who spoke the musicians' language. He was not a schooled musician ..., but he could read and write music. As a youth, he studied classical piano and would occasionally return to those pieces, but only for his own private entertainment. He was no virtuoso, but he could get his point across.

As a guitarist, he could wring a galloping, signature sound out of his nylon-stringed model that stitches its way through a number of his productions ...

During his first year in the record business, Berns fumbled around for his voice, but once he found his spiritual link to the mambo and rhythm and blues, he instinctively grew into an auteur, an artist who used personal themes to fashion universal messages. ...

His records with Solomon Burke established the singer as one of the most formidable figures of the rhythm and blues world, shoulder-to-shoulder with peers such as Sam Cooke, James Brown, Jackie Wilson and Ray Charles. He brought the heart of mambo into rock and roll - not the supple Brazilian samba rhythms found in records by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller or Burt Bacharach, but fiery Afro-Cuban incantations that pulsed with sex and sin. Almost alone among his contemporaries on the New York scene, Berns traveled to England as his song "Twist and Shout" rose as an anthem to a new generation of British musicians, where he made key records in the country's pop transformation. As he devoted more time to running his own record label, Bang Records, Berns started the careers of future giants Van Morrison and Neil Diamond.
The Wikipedia article about the song Cry to Me includes the following passages:
On December 6, 1961, [Solomon] Burke recorded one of his best known songs, "Cry to Me", an ode to loneliness and desire, one of the first songs to unify country, gospel and rhythm and blues in one package ....

Burke [and Berns] had a difficult relationship. Burke distrusted the young producer, and often spoke of him disparagingly, but later acknowledged Berns as "a genius" and "a great writer, a great man." 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."

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. ... 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.'" ...

Released in 1962, "Cry to Me" became Burke's second entry in the US charts, peaking at #5 on the rhythm-and-blues charts On March 20, 1962, Burke sang "Cry to Me" on American Bandstand. ...

After "Cry to Me", Burke became one of the first performers to be called a "soul" artist. 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",are salient. ...
The Wikipedia article about Solomon Burke includes the following passages:
Burke was born James Solomon McDonald on March 21, 1940 in the upper floor of his grandmother Eleanor Moore's home, a row house in West Philadelphia. Burke was the child of Josephine Moore and an absentee father. His mother Josephine was a nurse, schoolteacher, concert performer and pastor. Burke was consecrated a bishop at birth by his grandmother in the Solomon's Temple, a congregation of the United House of Prayer for All People, which she founded at her home in Black Bottom, West Philadelphia. When Burke was nine, his mother married rabbi and butcher Vincent Burke and had his name changed to Solomon Vincent McDonald Burke. ....

Burke credited his grandmother as his main spiritual and musical influence. He learned how to sing all forms of music from his grandmother's coaching him to listen to music on the radio. Burke began preaching at the age of seven at the Solomon's Temple. He was described in his young preaching years as a "frantic sermonizer" and "spellbinding in his delivery"; and was soon nicknamed the "Boy Wonder Preacher" for his charismatic preaching in the pulpit. Burke became a pastor of the congregation at age 12, appeared on the radio station WDAS, and later hosted a gospel show on WHAT-AM, mixing songs and sermons in broadcasts from Solomon's Temple. On weekends he traveled with a truck and tent, to Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas to carry on the spiritual crusade of his church. ....

From an early age Solomon Burke worked to supplement his family's income. He recalled: "I used to deliver grocery orders in a little wagon I made out of fish boxes. When I was seven, I sold newspapers out of my own newsstand on the corner of 40th and Lancaster. I had the first 99-cent car wash, which was located at 40th and Wallace outside Al's Barber Shop. We had it there because he was the only one who would let us use his water. We could wash your car in 20 minutes. I had four or five guys, gave 'em each a nickel for each car." Another briefly held early job was as a hot dog seller at Eddie's Meat Market, where his friend Ernest Evans, later known as Chubby Checker, also worked.

Burke eventually graduated from John Bartram High School. He first became a father at 14.

During high school, Burke formed and fronted the quartet, the Gospel Cavaliers. He received his first guitar from his grandmother, later writing his first song, "Christmas Presents". The Cavaliers began performing in churches. It was around this time that Burke met Kae "Loudmouth" Williams, a famed Philadelphia deejay with help from Williams' wife, Viola, who saw Burke and the Cavaliers perform at church.

Before entering a gospel talent contest in which a record deal was for first prize, the group split up. Burke entered the contest, held at Cornerstone Baptist Church, as a solo artist and won the contest against eleven other competitors. Soon, several labels including Apollo, Vee-Jay Records and Peacock Records pursued the 15-year-old. .... Burke signed with Apollo Records in late 1955, following the departure of gospel singer and the label's primary star Mahalia Jackson to Columbia. ...

Burke recorded nine singles for the label during his two-year tenure, releasing his first single, "Christmas Presents", on Christmas Eve of 1955. ... His early records did not sell well ... Burke was abruptly dropped from Apollo following a violent argument with manager Kae Williams over performance royalties. Burke claimed Williams had him "blackballed" from the industry following this move. ...

Following his initial Apollo departure, Burke struggled to record or get club dates, and an argument with his mother left him homeless. ... During this time, Burke studied the Islamic faith. ... Soon afterwards, he married Delores Clark ... and soon had seven children. As his family grew, Burke trained for a while to be a mortician at Eckels College of Mortuary Science, graduating from mortuary science, and finding work at a funeral home. ...

In November 1960, he signed with Atlantic Records. .... At the time of Burke's signing, two of Atlantic Records' major stars, Bobby Darin and Ray Charles, had left the label for better deals ... Burke created a string of hits that carried the label financially and represented the first fully realized examples of the classic soul sound." Burke reportedly helped keep Atlantic Records solvent from 1961 to 1965 with his steady run of hit records.

Burke recorded thirty-two singles with Atlantic ... Burke's second single for the label was the country single, "Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms)", which became his first charted single, reaching #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaking at #7 on the rhythm-and-blues charts. The song also became Burke's first million-seller.

His next hit came with "Cry to Me", which reached #5 on the rhythm-and-blues chart in 1962 and was described as one of the first songs to mix country, rhythm-and-blues and gospel. After the release of "Cry to Me", Burke was among one of the first artists to be referred to as a "soul artist".

Almost immediately after signing to Atlantic, [record producer Jerry] Wexler and Burke clashed over his branding and the songs that he would record. According to Burke, "Their idea was, we have another young kid to sing gospel, and we’re going to put him in the blues bag." As Burke had struggled from an early age with "his attraction to secular music on the one hand and his allegiance to the church on the other," when he was signed to Atlantic Records he "refused to be classified as a rhythm-and-blues singer" due to a perceived "stigma of profanity" by the church, and rhythm-and-blues' reputation as "the devil's music."

Burke indicated in 2005: "I told them about my spiritual background, and what I felt was necessary, and that I was concerned about being labeled rhythm-and-blues. What kind of songs would they be giving me to sing? Because of my age, and my position in the church, I was concerned about saying things that were not proper, or that sent the wrong message. That angered Jerry Wexler a little bit. He said, ‘We’re the greatest blues label in the world! You should be honored to be on this label, and we’ll do everything we can – but you have to work with us.’" To mollify Burke, it was decided to market him as a singer of "soul music" after he had consulted his church brethren and won approval for the term. .... Burke is credited with coining the term "soul music". ...

He "became known as much for his showmanship as he did his voice. He would often take the stage in a flowing, 15-foot-long cape and bejeweled crown .... As he increased in weight, "Burke’s sheer bulk meant that he could never be a dancer ... Consequently, over the years Burke "evolved a fervently demonstrative stage act", that were often compared with religious revival meetings. Burke ... would adopt the "house-wrecking" tactics of black preachers, and their shows functioned in much the same way as black religious events in that performer and audience became immersed in the music, arriving together at an ecstatic state that allowed them to feel a deep intensity of experience. .... Burke "turned theatres like the Apollo and the Uptown into churches, he had folk running down the aisles to be saved by his music."
The showmanship of Burke's later years is illustrated by the following video:


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The Rolling Stones recorded the song "Cry to Me" in 1965.

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