Bobby Womack: 1944-2014
Bobby Womack at Bonnaroo 2014- photo by Dean Budnick
Legendary soul singer Robert Dwayne “Bobby” Womack passed away last night, his record label confirmed. Womack reportedly died in his sleep although the cause of death is currently unknown. Over the years, Womack dealt with several health issues including a battle with colon cancer. He was 70 years old.
Born in Cleveland, OH in 1944, Womack was raised in the church of soul music. His mother played organ in their church and his father was a minister and musician. It wasn’t long before Bobby formed The Womack Brothers with his brother Curtis, a group that toured the gospel circuit with their parents accompanying them on organ and guitar.
Over the next decade, as Womack matured into his teens, The Womack Brothers would become The Valentinos at the behest of Sam Cooke, who discovered the group while performing with the Soul Stirrers in 1956. Cooke formed SAR Records and gave Bobby and Curtis a record deal, which eventually led to their first hits such as “Looking for a Love,” written by Bobby. The Rolling Stones, a group Womack would collaborate with later in life, even offered up a cover of The Valentinos’ “It’s All Over Now,” a tune that would be the band’s first No. 1 song in the U.K.
With his reputation as a songwriter now established, the 1970s would see Womack work with some of the biggest acts in music history. Aretha Franklin, Sly Stone, The Rolling Stones and many more tapped Womack to write and record with them. Womack also collaborated with Janis Joplin on her song “Trust Me” and worked with Sly and the Family Stone on their album There’s a Riot Goin’ On.
Following a hiatus in the mid-1980s due to issues with drug addiction, Womack would experience a late-career renaissance in the mid-1990s as he marked his return with Resurrection and got back on the road. With a new age of music dawning, Womack still found himself collaborating with the likes of Damon Albarn, Ronnie Isley, Mos Def, Todd Rundgren, The Roots and many more.
In the end, Womack would release 28 studio albums, two live albums and nine compilation records. He would collaborate with everyone from The Rolling Stones to the Gorillaz. His 1981 effort The Poet would top the R&B charts, marking his only record to hit number one in his 50-year career. Womack was immortalized in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.
Recently, Womack was at-work on his next album, The Best is Yet to Come, with cameos expected from Damon Albarn, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood and others. He performed on The Farm at Bonnaroo earlier this month and was scheduled to hit the road beginning in July.