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Artist

Bobby Womack

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Biography

Robert Dwayne "Bobby" Womack (/ˈwmæk/; March 4, 1944 – June 27, 2014) was an American singer-songwriter and musician, and producer. 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 60 years, during which he played in the styles of R&B, soul, rock and roll, doo-wop, gospel, and country.

Womack was a prolific songwriter who wrote and originally recorded the Rolling Stones' first UK No. 1 hit, "It's All Over Now" and New Birth's "I Can Understand It". As a singer he is most notable for the hits "Lookin' For a Love", "That's The Way I Feel About Cha", "Woman's Gotta Have It", "Harry Hippie", "Across 110th Street", and his 1980s hits "If You Think You're Lonely Now" and "I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much".

Born in Cleveland's Fairfax neighborhood, near East 85th Street and Quincy Avenue, to Naomi Womack and Friendly Womack, Bobby was the third of five brothers. Friendly Jr. and Curtis were the older brothers, Cecil and Harry were his younger brothers. They all grew up in the Cleveland slums, so poor that the family would fish pig snouts out of the local supermarket's trash. He had to share a bed with his brothers. His mother told him he could "sing his way out of the ghetto." Bobby recalls:


We came up very poor. My kids have had a much better life than I'd ever thought of livin'


And:


The neighborhood was so ghetto that we didn't bother the rats and they didn't bother us.


Raised Baptist, their mother played the organ for the church choir, and their father was a steelworker, part-time minister, musician who played the guitar and also sang gospel. Their father would advise his sons to not touch his guitar 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, Friendly was stunned by his son's talents as well as the talents of his other sons. Soon afterwards, he bought Bobby his own guitar.

Bobby's career started before he was 10, when he began touring with his four brothers, Curtis, Harry, Cecil and Friendly, Jr., on the midwest gospel circuit in the mid-1950s, initially as The Womack Brothers. The gospel group toured along with their parents accompanying them on organ and guitar. In 1954, under the moniker Curtis Womack and the Womack Brothers, the group issued the Pennant single, "Buffalo Bill". More records followed.

Sam Cooke, the lead singer of The Soul Stirrers, first saw the group performing in the mid-1950s. He became their mentor and helped them go on tour. They went on national tours with The Staple Singers. 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. At just 16, Bobby dropped out of high school.

At the beginning of the 1960s, Cooke formed SAR Records and signed the quintet to the label in 1961, where they released a handful of gospel singles. Then, Cooke changed their name to the Valentinos, relocated them to Los Angeles and convinced them to transition from gospel music to secular soul-and pop-influenced sound. Cooke produced and arranged the group's first hit single, "Lookin' for a Love", which was a pop version of the gospel song, "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray", they had recorded earlier. 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.

Womack was also a member of Cooke's band, touring and recording with him from 1961. 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. Womack continued to work as a session musician. Between 1965 and 1968, he toured and recorded with Ray Charles.

Circa 1965, Womack relocated to Memphis where he worked at Chips Moman's American Studios. He played guitar 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 Womack's songs and insisted on recording them. Among the songs were "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. In fact, Womack was one of the last people to see Joplin alive, having visited her hours before she died at the Landmark Hotel in Los Angeles, California.

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 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 single 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 1997 film, Jackie Brown. 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, that 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 10 single in five years – since the 1976 single "Daylight" – with "If You Think You're Lonely Now" that 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 10 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 after 1985, in part due to Womack's issues with drug addiction. After sobering up in the mid-1990s, he released his twentieth studio album, Resurrection on his close friend's Ronnie Wood's label. The album included session background work from admiring associates that included Rod Stewart, Ronald Isley, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts. His remaining brothers from the Valentinos, Curtis, Friendly and Cecil, featured as background singers. Two singles from the album – a duet with Ronald Isley, "Tryin' Not To Break Down", and "Forever Love" – appeared on the Billboard R&B chart, but although the album contained two of Womack's best latter songs, "Cousin Henry" and "Don't Break Your Promise (Too Soon)", the album received a mixed critical reception. A gospel album, Back to My Roots, appeared at the end of the decade, but Womack largely concentrated on session and guest work for the next ten years.

He is the featured vocalist on June Yamagishi's My Pleasure album, on "Inherit The Wind", a track credited to Wilton Felder, and with Allen Toussaint on "Sputin", and he contributed vocals to Rae & Christian's version of "Wake Up Everybody". Other collaborations included "You Got What It Takes" with Diane Schuur, "Ain't Nothing Like The Lovin' We Got" with Shirley Brown, "Break the Chain" with Andrew Love & Wayne Jackson and "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" with Jeanie Tracy.

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 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. 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 follow-up album would now be called The Best Is Yet To Come and feature Teena Marie and Ronnie Isley.

Womack duets with Van Morrison on "Some Peace of Mind", from Morrison's 1991 album, Hymns to the Silence, on Morrison's album Duets: Re-working the Catalogue released in 2015. Womack collaborated with Rudimental on "New Day", a song taken from their second studio album, We the Generation. He had expressed an interest in working with the group and they had exchanged ideas. Following Womack's death, his wife sent the group an a cappella vocal which he had recorded for them, and they pieced together the track.

Throughout his long recording career, many of Womack's songs have been covered by other artists. In addition to the famous Rolling Stones' version of "

Timeline