Rolling Stone reports that Bobby Womack has passed away at the age of 70. As yet, the cause of death is unknown, although Womack was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013 and had previously fought cancer.
Born Cleveland, Ohio in 1944, Bobby Womack was forever moving. As lead singer with The Valentinos, his velvet voice helped push R&B into soul. The group’s hit ‘It’s All Over Now’ was later re-tooled by The Rolling Stones but, instead of being jealous, the songwriter was quick to realise that new, exciting audiences were opening up for his music.
A contemporary of Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack even played guitar on ‘Twistin’ The Night Away’. A relatively fallow period in the 60s would be broken with his emergence as a solo artist, with 1968’s ‘Fly Me To The Moon’ scoring several hits.
Drawn into the funk sphere, Bobby Womack’s languid, socially aware score for ‘Across 110th Street’ would break new ground in the 70s. A renowned guitarist as well as a pivotal songwriter, Womack would play session work and tour with the likes of Sly & The Family Stone, The Faces, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin and more.
Signing to Beverly Glen Records in 1981, Bobby Womack stepped back into the limelight with the multi award-winning album ‘The Poet’. Internationally lauded, it saw the artist bring his sound back up to date utilising the latest studio effects – a hallmark of Womack’s career.
Suffering from problems with addiction, Womack’s career fell by the wayside in the 80s. A sporadic 90s saw a number of session work, alongside the odd solo release but the velocity of his career seemed to have waned.
An encounter with Damon Albarn in 2010, though, saw Bobby Womack drawn into the orbit of Gorillaz. Re-establishing himself as a pre-eminent soul vocalist, sessions began on a new album with XL boss Richard Russell pairing up with Albarn.
Released in 2012, ‘The Bravest Man In The Universe’ was a stunning return, in keeping with Womack’s catalogue but also frighteningly new. Clash placed Bobby Womack on the cover of our final issue of 2012, and was granted full, free and frank access to a truly inspiring artist.
Musing on his place within the soul spectrum, Bobby Womack remarked that the majority of his contemporaries had passed away. “All the people that I grew up with - Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass, Wilson Pickett - all them people are gone! I say, if they left me here to carry the ball, I gotta do it where they feel proud of what I’m doing."
"And that right there kept me in the game, and just waiting on the opportunity - if it ever came along, I would open up. And it came along, and I opened up. If I’m still living, I wanna keep living. I wanna try out the new things.”
Rest in peace. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
Photo Credit: Rory Van Millingen