As we continue our journey through the decades, this week we would like to put the spotlight on one of the best and most prolific singers and songwriters in the R&B world, Mr. Bobby Womack.
With a career spanning 6 decades, Womack first started making moves in the music world in the 60s as a member of The Valentinos, the group he founded with his siblings and that was discovered by Sam Cooke. It was during this period that he started building his reputation as a writer, penning with his brothers the first UK #1 hit for The Rolling Stones in 1964, “It’s All Over Now,” a song that was originally intended for his group to record and release. After Sam Cooke’s death stalled the group’s career, Womack continued to work as a musician and writer contributing to some of the most revered musical work of the 60s: he played guitar on several songs from Aretha Franklin’s iconic Lady Soul album, he wrote songs for Wilson Pickett and played and composed for Rock artists such as Sly and the Family Stone and Janis Joplin.
In the 1970s Bobby Womack found his breakthrough as a solo artist, releasing acclaimed albums and singles, such as the iconic “Across 110th Street,” released in 1972 as part of the soundtrack to the omonymous blaxploitation movie set in Harlem. In 1976 he released the breezy R&B hit “Daylight,” while he returned to the top of the charts in 1981 with “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” from his album The Poet.
In the last years of his career, he notably lent his voice to “Stylo” released in 2010 by the virtual band Gorillaz. The single was met with positive reactions by critics and helped expose Womack to a new audience. His last album, The Bravest Man in the Universe, was released in 2012 and was his first release in more than a decade.
Bobby Womack passed away in 2014, but not before establishing his legacy as a songwriter. A number of his songs have been covered or sampled by contemporary artists, such as K-Ci Haley of Jodeci, Kelly Rowland (who covered “Daylight” with Travis McCoy for her 2007 album Ms. Kelly) and Mariah Carey, who referenced Womack and his “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” on her 2005 comeback single “We Belong Together.” “Across 110th Street” was given new life in 1997 with its use on the Quentin Tarantino directed movie Jackie Brown.
The versatility of his writing and the warm timbre of his voice have left an indelible mark on R&B music. His long career as a musician and singer produced an extensive catalog that has received acclaim by critics and his peers, being referenced as an influence by many artists. Bobby Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.
Check out some of Womack’s most popular cuts: