Soul Singer Bobby Womack Dies at 70

bobby womack

In a career that spanned over six decades and touched generations of music lovers around the world, legendary American soul singer Bobby Womack has passed away at the age of 70. News of the famed singer’s death broke late Friday evening and was announced by the publicist associated with Womack’s record label. The singer’s cause of death is yet to be disclosed.

From his early beginnings singing gospel music, Bobby Womack would take church born musical influences and reinvent his sound to a more secular tune of soul, rhythm and blues and pop music. Womack began working as a back up musician for soul singer Sam Cooke and would soon after get signed along with his brothers as a group called The Valentinos to Cooke’s record label SAR Records until Cooke’s untimely death in the mid 1960s. During their time with SAR records, they scored their first hit with a song called It’s All Over Now, a song that would go on to be re-recorded by The Rolling Stones. Along with the Stones, Bobby Womack would write a string of songs for artists like Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, and Rod Stewart among others.

Personally, Bobby Womack went on to marry Sam Cooke’s widow Barbara Campbell and would soon after find his career floundering for a lengthy period of time throughout the mid 1970s and into the early 1980s. The  marriage to Campbell would ultimately end in divorce and Womack would go on to marry two more times unsuccessfully.

By 1981, Womack would revive his career and come back with the hit R&B single If You Think You’re Lonely Now as well as scoring a hit duet with Patti LaBelle in 1984 with the single Love Has Finally Come At Last. In recent years, Bobby Womack would find himself and his work being revived by some of today’s contemporary music artists.  Mariah Carey referencing the singer and his work in her 2005 song We Belong Together, and R&B singer K-Ci Hailey (of 90’s R&B duo K-Ci & Jojo) went on to record a cover of Womack’s If You Think You’re Lonely Now. Younger artists wanted to pay homage to a man many affectionately referred to as ‘The Preacher” for his strong authoritative voice.

As with many musicians of his era, Bobby Womack had his share of demons in the form of drug addiction and abuse. The singer would seek help by checking into rehab but would not too long afterward discover that his health would be a major concern for him. Womack, who was diagnosed as diabetic was also compounded with a series of other health problems like prostate cancer, pneumonia and early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. While the alzheimer’s disease kept a grip on the singer as he would forget song lyrics and names, Womack would go on to beat his bout with cancer.

Despite not ever selling millions of records like some of his peers, Bobby Womack left an indelible impression on the soul and R&B genre. With such a longstanding legacy and his contributions to  the music industry, in 2009, Bobby Womack would  be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in his native Cleveland, Ohio. The legendary artist is survived by two sons.

By Hal Banfield

Rolling Stone
NY Times
USA Today