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Bobby Womack: Bio

Bobby Womack

Bobby Womack (vocals, guitar; born March 4, 1944)

Bobby Womack is a stalwart soul and gospel figurehead whose resume includes significant contributions across the decades as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. The son of a steelworker, he was born in Cleveland, where he and his siblings formed a gospel group at a young age. While touring with the Soul Stirrers, the Womack Brothers met that group’s lead singer, Sam Cooke. After Cooke’s move from gospel to soul, he contacted the Womacks and asked them to move to California. Bobby Womack was only 16 years old at the time, and he dropped out of school. Under Cooke’s tutelage, they crossed the bridge from sacred to secular music, recording for his Sar label as the Valentinos and the Lovers.

The Womack brothers – Bobby and his siblings Cecil, Curtis, Harris and Friendly, Jr. - cut two R&B classics as the Valentinos: “Looking for a Love” (later covered by the J. Geils Band) and “It’s All Over Now.” The Rolling Stones’ cover of the latter song beat the Valentinos’ own version onto the charts, giving the Stones their second Top Forty hit in the States. Bobby Womack also played guitar in Cooke’s band. In the wake of Cooke’s shooting death under mysterious circumstances, the Valentinos broke up and Womack turned to songwriting, guitar playing and a solo career. 
He has written songs recorded by Wilson Pickett (“I’m a Midnight Mover”), George Benson (“Breezin’”),Janis Joplin (“Trust Me”) and others. Pickett alone recorded 17 of Womack’s compositions. A solid guitarist who worked on the Memphis session scene for a period in the Sixties, Womack played on sessions for Pickett, Aretha FranklinRay Charles, Joe Tex, King Curtis, Dusty Springfield and other soul and R&B artists. He cut an album with jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo, too.

Recording under his own name, Womack scored a string of minor hits toward the end of the Sixties. These included remakes of the Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’” and Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” as well as originals like “How I Miss You Baby.” Womack made his greatest mark in the Seventies and Eighties, discovering and refining a unique identity as a soul man with a message. Earning the nicknames “The Preacher” and “The Poet,” Womack often prefaced his songs with monologues on the subjects of love and communication. Understanding firsthand like few others that soul’s roots lay in the church, he didn’t just sing, he testified. 
From 1970 to 1990, Womack was popular and prolific, charting 36 singles. These include such major R&B hits as “That’s the Way I Feel About Cha” (#2), “Woman’s Gotta Have It” (#1) and “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” (#3). Womack topped the R&B chart with his 1974 re-recording of “Lookin’ for a Love,” while his contemporary update of a blues classic, “Nobody Wants to Know You When You’re Down and Out,” made it to #2. He was a hitmaking machine in the mid-Seventies, perennially present in the Top Ten with such numbers as 1974’s “You’re Welcome, Stop On By,” 1975’s “Check It Out” and 1976’s “Daylight.”

In addition to his success on the singles charts, Womack cut a series of albums whose thematic depth moved soul music forward much like the work of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. These include Communication, Understanding, Someday We’ll All Be Free and The Poet.

His first gold single was 1972’s “Harry Hippie,” written specifically about his laid-back brother Harris and indirectly about the larger counterculture. Womack, who became close friends with Sly Stone, got ensnared in the darker side of the hard-partying world of Los Angeles’ musical community. A series of personal tragedies – including the murder of brother Harry and the deaths of two sons – triggered descents into drugs and creative dry spells. However, Womack drew on his religious upbringing and love of music, emerging as a survivor with even deeper messages to impart.

The first half of the Eighties saw the release of his two best-selling albums, The Poet and The Poet II. In 1985 he released “Someday We’ll All Be Free,” the title track from an album of the same name that was renamed The Poet III for its CD release. A 1984 duet with Patti Labelle, “Love Has Finally Come at Last,” reached #3. His biggest hits of the Eighties, “I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me So Much” and “(No Matter How High I Get) I’ll Still Be Lookin’ Up to You,” both made it to #2 at mid-decade. Womack duetted with Mick Jagger on “Going Back to Memphis,” from the Rolling Stones’ Dirty Work album and with Shirley Brown on “Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Lovin’ We Got.” Womack reunited with his brothers for 1989’s “Save the Children,” which was the title track of his last album for five years.

In 1994, after an extended absence, Womack returned with Resurrection, which appeared on Rolling Stone Ron Wood’s Slide label. (Womack had previously produced and played on Wood’s 1974 solo album Look Now.) Such guest artists as Wood, Keith Richards, Rod StewartStevie Wonder and Ronald Isley lent Resurrection the atmosphere of a soulful homecoming. Later in the decade, Womack kept a promise he’d made to his father by cutting a gospel album, Back to My Roots.

Womack is a music-business survivor, elder statesman and champion of old-school soul. “The whole thing is to make music feel real,” he told Craig Warner in a 1998 Goldmine profile. “You’ve got two or three minutes to connect, and it’s important that you have a story, a good hook line. It’s always gonna go back to that.”

BOBBY WOMACK

 

Living In The House of Blues

 

 

Bobby Womack has been dreaming of Living in the House of Blues a long time – and now, with his historic recording featuring legendary friends and musical cohorts Eric Clapton, Ron Wood and B.B. King, the R&B legend is finally moving in and making groovin’ musical magic like never before.

 

In 2009, after over a decade out of the limelight, Womack enjoyed a banner year that sparked a long overdue career renaissance. The famed singer, songwriter and guitarist who graced recordings by Sly Stone, Wilson Pickett and Sam Cooke; wrote and originally recorded The Rolling Stones’ first UK #1 “It’s All Over Now”; and recorded such 70s soul classics as “Lookin’ For A Love,” “That’s The Way I Feel About Cha,” “Harry Hippie” and “Across 110th Street” at last got his due and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

Then Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, the sonic masterminds behind the British virtual alternative hip-hop group Gorillaz, got a hold of him and made Womack and Mos Def the centerpiece of “Stylo,” a track from their Plastic Beach album that reached #24 on the Billboard Alternative chart. In 2010, Womack was part of the ensemble that performed the tune on The Colbert Report. After performing it at the Glastonbury Festival with De La Soul, Snoop Dogg and Lou Reed, Womack joined Gorillaz on their first ever world tour, which began in Lebanon and took them across America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

 

Womack had recorded the highly anticipated gospel album Back To My Roots in 1999 and his classic instrumental “Breezin’” had become a staple of the smooth jazz format via George Benson’s mid-70s recording. He also earned a co-writing credit for Mariah Carey’s #1 multiple Grammy Award winning 2005 hit “We Belong Together” because the song mentions him and his 1981 top 5 soul hit “If You Think You’re Lonely Now.” Yet, Womack hadn’t penned any new material in 15 years. Gorillaz gave Womack the creative freedom to write and sing whatever was on his mind, and the singer didn’t hold back, “going crazy,” as he says, “about love and politics, getting it off my chest.”

 

The Gorillaz experience, and the renewed appreciation for his legacy that it engendered, inspired him to begin composing again and provided the funds to begin recording an album dear to Womack’s heart. The multi-faceted solo project will allow several new generations of R&B/pop fans to dig into the singer’s fascinating history. He launched his career as a session guitarist for everyone from Joe Tex and The Box Tops to Aretha Franklin, Sly Stone and Janis Joplin, then became  songwriter for Wilson Pickett before evolving into a hitmaking recording artist for United Artists in the 70s.

 

            Living In The House of Blues will feature a mix of new Womack-penned material and covers. The basic tracks were recorded at two studios in Los Angeles, including that of guitarist Michael Thompson, who plays throughout the recording. The 13-track collection includes a

revamp of two Womack classics: “I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me So Much” (his final Top 10 R&B single), which the singer says he “changed to another pocket, to give it a face lift”; and “One More Chance on Love,” from his 1976 album Home Is Where The Heart Is.

 

            The project also features covers of Seals & Croft’s AC staple “Diamond Girl,” Johnny Taylor’s “Cheaper To Keep Her” and the poignant “The Sun Died,” a somewhat obscure Ray Charles song that Womack would often listen to with Barbara Campbell, Sam Cooke’s widow who later became Womack’s wife. New Womack songs on Living In The House of Blues include “Jealous Love,” “Let Me Kiss It Where It Hurts.”

 

            Womack is feeling other music these days as well. After the release of Living In The House of Blues, the singer will put out his first solo album in over 10 years, a labor of love entitled The Best Is Yet To Come. The album will feature an incredible array of legendary guests, including the late Gerald Levert and Teena Marie, Rod Stewart, Stevie Wonder, Ronald Isley and Snoop Dogg. The collection will include “Lefthanded Upside Down,” a beautiful new autobiographical song about Womack’s early days learning to play his instrument.  

 

            “Being on the Gorillaz tour reminded me of just how wonderful a feeling it is to walk out onstage and feel that connection with the audience,” says Womack. “It’s like I get to be a doctor, healing these people in ways the guy in the white coat can’t. Every time I perform, I have a chance to make a difference in people’s lives by simply having the courage to sing my truth. I’m looking forward to getting out there with these new projects and keeping that exciting conversation going with the many generations of pop and R&B fans.”