In Memory...

Published on June 29th, 2014 | by Andy Sedlak

5 Bobby Womack Songs You Need to Hear Right Now

I was hanging out with a buddy on Friday night when I saw an alert on my phone.

“Legendary soul singer Bobby Womack has died, his publicist says. He was 70.”

I turned to my buddy.

“Wow,” I said. “Bobby Womack died.”

“Who?” he asked.

I would text another friend with the same news later in the evening.

“Did you see Bobby Womack died?”

“Wow,” he said. And that was kind of it.

For as long as Bobby Womack was around, he may not have reached a ton of millennials. That’s in spite of a recent surge in visibility. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. His 2012 album The Bravest Man in the Universe was hailed by Rolling Stone magazine as a classic sentiment updated for the era of drone attacks and wiretaps.”  Along with Mos Def, he was featured on a Gorillaz single in 2010 and even played Bonnaroo two weeks before his death.

But personal problems that included (but were not limited to) health scares and drug issues plagued his long career. Outrageous amounts of cocaine, alcohol, marijuana and pills sort of ruled out the ability to function in everyday life for a while.

“I gotta get back on the road – I’m broke,” he told a reporter shortly before his death.

He also had issues with women. He married Sam Cooke’s widow three months after Cooke was shot and killed at a hotel in 1964. Cooke had been Womack’s mentor. One of Womack’s early groups, The Valentinos, had been signed to Cooke’s label.

In 1970, the current Mrs. Bobby Womack found him in bed with her daughter (his stepdaughter). In a bizarre twist, that girl, who was a teenager, later married Bobby’s younger brother.

These things may hinder one’s ability to attract good press.

But Bobby’s musical accomplishments were immeasurable. Womack had a huge posse of friends. Who else in the music business has worked professionally with both Van Morrison and The Wu-Tang Clan?

Womack and Stones

Womack picking with The Rolling Stones.

A few of Womack’s accomplishments as a collaborator:

  • Wrote “It’s All Over Now, which became the Rolling Stones’ first #1 song.
  • Played guitar on Aretha Franklin’s 1968 masterpiece Lady Soul, which is ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 100 best albums of all time.
  • Sang and played guitar on Sly and the Family Stone’s There’s A Riot Going On, also ranked as one of the 100 best albums in history by Rolling Stone magazine.
  • Wrote “Trust Me” for Janis Joplin. The song was featured on her landmark release, Pearl. It was (you guessed it) also ranked it as one of the greatest releases of all time by Rolling Stone.

Furthermore, there’s an urban legend that Womack’s own Mercedes Benz inspired Joplin’s song by the same name.

But as impressive as that list is, it’s not why we’re here today. We’re here to pause with the understanding that an undeniable legend has passed. And to do that, we’ll celebrate Womack’s solo work.

Womack himself became a prominent act in the ’70s and early ’80s, and we could celebrate any number of tunes from “That’s the Way I Feel About Cha” to “Harry Hippie” to “Woman’s Gotta Have It.”

But the songs below are personal favorites of mine. They’re going out to you with love.

If this serves as an introduction to Bobby’s music, then so be it.

“Leave them wanting more and you know they’ll call you back,” he once said.

Bobby Womack

Womack, after becoming a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee in 2009.

“If You Think You’re Lonely Now”

Perennial Womack. Everything’s smooth – the melody, the lyric, the vocal. It’s not only pure soul, it’s pure Bobby.

“Across 110th Street”

Written for the 1972 blaxploitation film of the same name–later used to open Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. The hook will camp out in your head for days.

“I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me So Much”

A slinky mid-80s pop jam about the kind of temptation that ends friendships. The most telling line? “How can he be so blind/We both got the same good taste.”

“Please Forgive My Heart”

A lifetime of giving into the kind of temptation crystallized in the selection above makes this 2012 comeback song all the more poignant.

“Love Has Finally Come At Last”

The sound of a grateful 44-year-old man. For all of Womack’s struggles, tracks like this one fortify his warmth as a singer. And will you just listen to Patti LaBelle wail those backing vocals?

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About the Author

Andy Sedlak is a former television reporter who lives in Dayton, OH. He grew up in a household that pumped Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel every weekend. He instantly became a new man when he discovered Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” in junior high.

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