March 4, 1944 — June 27, 2014
Bobby Womack, one of the last great legends of soul music, has passed into lore, leaving an incomparable legacy a generation will long remember.
They don’t make music like this anymore, haven’t for quite some time, and quite likely never will again. Bobby Womack, a.k.a. “The Preacher,” harked from an era when dyed-in-the-wool artists honed their craft and cut their teeth the hard way, paying their proverbial dues in bars and clubs, creating a distinct sound in the recording studio.
Without benefit of big-money backers and engineering gimmicks, groundbreakers like Bobby Womack made history. He came up under such seminal figures as Sam Cooke and James Brown, backing up his lifelong hero Cooke on guitar and vocals, playing the Valentinos a.k.a. The Womack Brothers on tour with the James Brown Revue.
From the 1950s up until his death while preparing for a week of dates in Amsterdam, he was a powerful vocalist with raw-edged grace and inimitable style, a songsmith possessed of ready wit and, especially when it came to writing about romance, insightful wisdom. His live performances were marked by both a dynamic personality and the ability to bring intimacy to a large auditorium.
After penning chart-topping hits by several artists like the Rolling Stones (“It’s All Over Now”), Aretha Franklin (“I’m In Love”), Wilson Pickett (“I’m Midnight Mover”) and more, his recording of “I’m Looking For A Love,” put Bobby Womack on the commercial map, aided in no small part by American Bandstand producer/host Dick Clark, who routinely helped singers of color cross over.
While he’d sustained a strong core following throughout his career, he wasn’t a mainstream success, but he made a huge comeback with The Poet, scoring chart-topping hits with “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” from The Poet and “I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me So Much” from So Many Rivers. “Across 110th Street” was the title song to the 1972 film and prominently featured in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.
In all, he recorded nearly 50 albums and an equal number of singles, including “It’s All Over Now” with Bill Withers in 1975, “Love Has Finally Come At Last” with Patti Labelle, and his final release in 2012, “Please Forgive My Heart.” A memoir documenting the ups and downs of his historic career, Midnight Mover, was published in 2007.
Robert Dwayne “Bobby” Womack, after continued bouts with a debilitating illness, died June 27 of an undisclosed cause. He was remarried to his second wife, Regina, at the time of his death, and is survived by his wife, two brothers, two sons and a daughter.
By Dwight Hobbes