Trying To Get To You

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Great Bobby Womack

Bobby Womack is one of those great artists who, while well known and loved dearly by soul aficionados, is less known elsewhere. There aren’t any streets named after him, and there haven’t been any Lifetime Achievement Grammys for him. It’s a shame, because for decades, Womack has been one of the great threads running through American music.

Starting in Gospel, his family’s group the Womack Brothers was discovered by Sam Cooke and signed to Cooke’s SAR label in the early 60’s. Renamed the Valentinos, they put out some seminar sides of the period, including “Looking For A Love” (a song Bobby would remake in to a huge hit in the 70’s) and “It’s All Over Now,” which, with Sam Cooke’s blessing, was given to the Rolling Stones in late 1964 (and was their first U.K. #1). Womack also served as the lead guitarist in Cooke’s band.

Womack gained infamy in the soul community for marrying Sam Cooke’s widow Barbara in March of 1965, only three months after Sam had been shot and killed at a motel in Los Angeles. Womack later said that he married Barbara out of fear of what she would do to herself if she were left alone, but it caused enough controversy that Womack had to retreat. His next step was working as a session guitarist at Chips Moman’s American Studios in Memphis, playing on records by Joe Tex, the Box Tops and Wilson Pickett (he contributed several seminal songs to Pickett, including “I’m A Midnight Mover.”)

In the late 60’s, Womack began to find his stride as a solo artist, ironically, it was at the same time that his marriage with the former Barbara Cooke began to unravel. He played guitar on Sly Stone’s epochal post-60’s reckoning, There’s A Riot Goin’ On. In the 70’s, hits like the sublime “Across 110th Street,” “Harry Hippie” and “Daylight” brought Womack major success on the R&B charts. Not wiling to consign himself to any one genre, Womack also took stabs at country (B.W. goes C.W.), blues and gospel. His last big hit was in 1981 with “If You Think You’re Lonely Now.” He's still touring today.

(Thanks to Bob Dylan’s fantastic radio show, I’m able to post the demo version of “Across 110th Street” followed by the original. Buy his music!)

Download: "Across 110th Street" (Demo - from Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour)
Download: "Across 110th Street" (original)
Bobby Womack at Amazon

1 comment:

HippieGirl said...

I love that song 110th Street