Bobby Womack may not be a household name, but he was one of the most proficient and well-respected musicians in the soul genre and he leaves behind quite a legacy. Womack grew up in Cleveland playing gospel with his family, distinguished by his rough, deep voice. After playing on his father’s guitar, he got his own and became an important part of The Womack Brothers. In 1956, the group was discovered by Sam Cooke. After Cooke had started a record company, he began producing the Womacks as The Valentinos. The group expanded its catalog including a song co-written by Bobby Womack called It’s All Over Now. The song was doing well and then The Rolling Stones covered it, bringing the song even more into the mainstream.
The group of brothers broke up in 1964 after the tragic death of their mentor Same Cooke. Bobby caused controversy when he married Cooke’s widow just months after he was shot in a motel. After he had lost his band, Womack began work in American studios in Memphis as a songwriter and guitar player. Womack played on several songs by Aretha Franklin, including songs on her album Lady Soul. After he signed his own record deal as a solo artist Womack recorded with Janis Joplin as well as Sly and the Family Stone. After a few successful albums as a solo artist, Womack created the soundtrack for the movie Across 110th Street. The soundtrack would be a large part of the legacy he left behind. His work on that film would also later be used for the movie Jackie Brown.
In 1975,Womack had another run in with The Rolling Stones, this time by playing on Ronnie Wood’s album Now Look. Like the well documented Rolling Stones, Womack had struggled with drug abuse. Due to his addictions, Womack’s career began to falter by the end of the 80’s. He spent much of the next decade kicking his habits and sobering up in order to resume his career. In 2010, Womack was featured in a song with Mos Def on The Gorillaz’ album Plastic Beach, and in 2012 he released yet another solo album. Ever the songwriter and performer, Womack was reportedly working on a blue album before his death featuring multiple big name artists from Snoop Dogg to Rod Stewart.
Sadly, fans may never get to hear that album, at least not in any truly completed form. Still even with an uncompleted album, Bobby Womack had a complete career and leaves behind a large legacy. His work spans multiple genres and several decades, connecting with fans of all ages all around the world. Many of the artists Womack played for may have more name recognition than he does, but surely, those artists and true fans of soul music will always remember him. Bobby Womack is survived by his family, his Grammy and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legacy, and his dozens of classic records that his fans and the entire the world can sing along to and learn from forever.
By Matt Isaacs