Bobby Womack Soul Singer Legend Dead at 70

Bobby Womack Early Publicity Photo.jpg

Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Robert Dwayne "Bobby" Womack has passed away at the age of 70. Bobby Womack was born on March 4th, 1944 to Friendly Womack and Naomi Womack, and grew up in the Cleveland slums, so poor that the family would fish pig snouts out of the local supermarket's trash. "The neighborhood was so ghetto that we didn't bother the rats and they didn't bother us," he said. "They walked past and hollered, 'How you doin', man?'" He was the third of five sons: Bobby had to share a bed with his brothers, Friendly Jr., Curtis, Harry and Cecil.

An active recording artist since the early 1960s, when he started his career as the lead singer of his family musical group the Valentinos and as Sam Cooke's backing guitarist, Womack's career spanned more than 50 years and spanned a repertoire in the styles of R&B, soul, rock and roll, doo-wop, gospel, and country.

Raised Baptist, their mother played organ in their church and their father was a minister and musician, often known to play guitar though he advised his sons to not touch the instrument while he was away. One night, eight-year-old Bobby, who was often playing it, broke a guitar string. After Friendly replaced the string with a shoelace, he let Bobby play the guitar for him. According to Bobby later, Friendly was shocked by his son's talents as well as the talents of his other sons. Soon afterwards, he bought Bobby his own guitar and formed The Womack Brothers. The group toured the gospel circuit with their parents accompanying them on organ and guitar respectively. In 1954, under the moniker Curtis Womack and the Womack Brothers, the group issued the Pennant single, "Buffalo Bill". Bobby was only ten years old at the time.

Even though Curtis Womack often sang lead, Bobby Womack was allowed to sing alongside him showcasing his gruff baritone vocals in contrast to his older brother's smoother tenor. During performances, Bobby would sometimes imitate the role of a preacher, which later became his nickname.[5] Sam Cooke discovered the group performing while he was still in the Soul Stirrers in 1956 and began mentoring the boys, promising them that he would help with their careers once he established himself. Within four years, Cooke had formed SAR Records and signed the quintet to the label. Changing their name to the Valentinos, Cooke produced and arranged the group's first hit single, "Looking for a Love", which was a pop version of a gospel song they had recorded titled "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray". The song became an R&B hit and helped land the group an opening spot for James Brown's tour. The group's next hit came in 1964 with the country-tinged "It's All Over Now", co-composed by Bobby. Their version was rising on the charts when the Rolling Stones covered it. The Valentinos' career was left shaky after Sam Cooke was shot and killed in a Los Angeles motel. Devastated by the news, the brothers disbanded and SAR Records folded.

Bobby Womack 2013Bobby Womack 2013Womack worked at Chips Moman's American Studios in Memphis and played on recordings by Joe Tex and the Box Tops. Womack played guitar on several of Aretha Franklin's albums, including Lady Soul, but not on the hit song "Chain of Fools", as erroneously reported. His work as a songwriter caught the eye of music executives after Wilson Pickett took a liking to some of the songs and insisted on recording them. Among those songs included the hits "I'm a Midnight Mover" and "I'm in Love".

In 1968, he signed with Minit Records and recorded his first solo album, Fly Me to the Moon, where he scored his first major hit with a cover of the Mamas & The Papas' "California Dreamin'". In 1969, Womack forged a partnership with Gábor Szabó and with Szabó, penned the instrumental "Breezin'", later a hit for George Benson. Womack also worked with rock musicians Sly and the Family Stone and Janis Joplin, contributing vocals and guitar work on The Family Stone's accomplished album There's a Riot Goin' On, and penning the ballad "Trust Me", for Joplin on her album Pearl.

After two more albums with Minit, Bobby switched labels, signing with United Artists where he changed his attire and his musical direction with the album Communication. The album bolstered his first top 40 hit, "That's the Way I Feel About Cha", which peaked at number two R&B and number twenty-seven on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1972.

Following Communication, Womack's profile was raised with two more albums, released in 1972. The first was Understanding, noted for the album track "I Can Understand It", later covered by the funk band New Birth and a three-sibling lineup of Bobby's old group, the Valentinos, and two hit singles, "Woman's Gotta Have It" and "Harry Hippie". The latter song was written for Womack by Jim Ford in a country version, which Womack re-arranged in an R&B version. "Harry Hippie" later became Womack's first to be certified gold. Contrary to popular belief, the song was not about Womack's brother Harry. "Woman's Gotta Have It" became Womack's first single to hit number-one on the R&B charts.

Another hit album released after Understanding was the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Across 110th Street. The title track became popular during its initial 1972 release and later would be played during the opening and closing scenes of the film, Jackie Brown, years later. In 1973, Womack released another hit album, Facts of Life, and had a top 40 hit with "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out", an older song Sam Cooke had done years before.

In 1974, Womack released his most successful single during this period with a remake of his first hit single, "Lookin' for a Love". His solo version of the song became even more successful than the original with the Valentinos', becoming his second number-one hit on the R&B chart and peaking at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming his only hit to reach that high on the pop chart. The song was featured on the album Lookin' for a Love Again and featured the minor charted "You're Welcome, Stop on By", later covered by Rufus & Chaka Khan. Womack's career began stalling after Womack received the news of his brother Harry's death. Womack continued to record albums with United Artists through 1975 and 1976 but with less success than previous albums. In 1975, Womack collaborated with Rolling Stones member Ronnie Wood, on Wood's second solo album, Now Look.

Womack languished with his own recordings during the late 1970s but continued to be a frequent collaborator with other artists, most notably Wilton Felder of The Crusaders. In 1980, Wilton Felder released on MCA Records, the album 'Inherit The Wind' featuring Bobby Womack which became a Jazz-Funk classic (notably in the UK - Robbie Vincent at Radio London included the track as one of his all-time winners in October 1982). In 1981, Womack signed with Beverly Glen Records and had his first R&B top ten single in five years since the 1976 single Daylight with "If You Think You're Lonely Now", which peaked at number three on the R&B singles chart. His accompanying album The Poet reached number one on the R&B album charts and is now seen as the high point of his long career, bringing him wider acclaim not only in the U.S. but also in Europe. He had two more R&B top ten singles during the 1980s including the Patti LaBelle duet, "Love Has Finally Come at Last", and "I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much". He had a hit featuring on the Wilton Felder single "(No Matter How High I Get) I'll Still Be Looking Up to You".

Womack's solo career started to slow down, however, after 1985, partially due to Womack's issues with drug addiction. After sobering up in the mid-1990s, he released the album Resurrection and continued his performing career.

In 1989, Womack sang on Todd Rundgren's "For the Want of a Nail" on the album Nearly Human. In 1998, he performed George Gershwin's "Summertime" with The Roots for the Red Hot Organization's compilation album Red Hot + Rhapsody, a tribute to George Gershwin, which raised money for various charities devoted to increasing AIDS awareness and fighting the disease.

In 2010, Womack contributed lyrics and sang on "Stylo" alongside Mos Def, the first single from the third Gorillaz album Plastic Beach. Womack was told to sing whatever was on his mind during the recording of "Stylo". "I was in there for an hour going crazy about love and politics, getting it off my chest", said Womack.[7] He also provided vocals on the song "Cloud of Unknowing" in addition to the song "Bobby in Phoenix" on their December 2010 release "The Fall".

A new album was released on June 12, 2012 by XL Recordings of London. The album, The Bravest Man in the Universe was produced by Damon Albarn and Richard Russell. The first Song "Please Forgive My Heart" was offered as a free download on XL Recordings' official website on March 8, 2012. Contact Music reported that Womack was working on a blues album called Living in the House of Blues, featuring collaborations with Stevie Wonder, Snoop Dogg and Rod Stewart. In an interview with Uncut, Womack revealed that the followup would now be called The Best Is Yet To Come and feature Teena Marie and Ronnie Isley.

Bobby Womack performs at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony 2009
http://youtu.be/4QaRtP7Nyik