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Today I'd like to celebrate a musical birthday by remembering, not the greatest of R&B singers, the most prolific, or even the most influential, but a guy who just happened to find a place in MY soul which was in need of HIS brand of soul.
You could call him a "poor man's Curtis Mayfield," but that's like saying Matisse was a "poor man's Picasso."
Nope. Instead let's just say that his music had a quality; gritty yet melodic, honest, but bordering on sly.
I liked his music a lot. That's really all that matters. From "Looking For A Love" to "That's The Way I Feel About Cha," to my favorite, "Across 110th Street," this guy really got to me. Who cares why.
Bobby Womack didn't grow up "across 110th Street" in Harlem, but the Fairfax neighborhood of Cleveland's E. 85th and Quincy was its equal. It was there that he and his brothers began singing together, Bobby was only ten, the third brother of five.
The Womack Brothers became The Valentinos and were soon discovered by Sam Cooke, who signed them to his own record label. They began writing hits like an early version of "Looking For A Love" and went on tour with James Brown. Bobby penned "It's All Over Now," which The Rolling Stones took to #1 in July of 1964, shortly after Bobby's version (with The Valentino's) peaked at #94. That really made Bobby mad, until he got his first royalty check. Then, he reportedly told his manager, "they can have all the songs they want."
Success seemed a certainty... and then Sam was tragically shot and killed five months later. It devastated the brothers, forced the closure of the label and shortly thereafter they disbanded.
Bobby was now a solo and he hit the ground running, covering songs by the top artists like The Mamas and The Papas, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Neil Diamond, playing guitar on albums by The Box Tops, Joe Tex and Aretha Franklin and writing for the likes of Janis Joplin and Sly & The Family Stone, not to mention creating the quintessential Smooth Jazz classic, "Breezin'." From 1968 to 1975 he was a regular on the Billboard Hot 100, while simultaneously topping the R&B charts.
Bobby continued his collaborations and solo projects into 2012, with the release of his final album "The Bravest Man In The Universe," featuring the single "Please Forgive My Heart."
But, his battles with addiction (which he kicked in the mid 90's), followed by prostate and colon cancer, pneumonia, and finally Alzheimer's disease caught up with him. Bobby Womack was 70 when he passed away last June.