Hard times have befallen another Soul Survivor.
Go down the list. Among the luminaries no longer with us Whitney’s gone. Luther’s gone. Isaac’s gone. Teddy’s gone. Michael is gone. You really need last names?
Bobby Womack is one of the greatest R n’ B vocalists most folks don’t know about. He never had a big crossover hit. Never showed up on American Idol. Never was celebrated by the critics and taste makers the way others are.
But Bobby could SANG. Not “sing.” The real OG’s know the difference. Womack didn’t make a lot of great albums, but oh, did he make some truly great singles.
I liked Bobby Womack’s music but I like his attitude nearly as much. When they get to be that old they don’t care what they say about anyone. In a 2012 interview Womack gave to The Guardian as his last album was released, The Bravest Man In the Universe, he held back nothing.
Womack was a session music on “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis. He wasn’t a fan: “People say: ‘What did you think of Elvis Presley?’ I say: ‘He wasn’t shit. Everything he got he stole.'”
Womack co-wrote “It’s All Over Now” with The Rolling Stones and made it a hit but Womack wasn’t all that impressed. “To be honest with you, I said: ‘Let the Rolling Stones get their own fuckin’ record and record that.'”
Many years later, Womack would show up on the Stones Dirty Work album and found he liked Keith Richards and Ron Wood just fine, but about about Mick Jagger he said: “Some people never grow up if you give ’em too much. They gonna be assholes, then they just become a bigger asshole.”
Janis Joplin was a friend and Womack was one of the last persons to see her before she died. Same thing with Marvin Gaye. “The last time I saw him, the day before he died, he said: ‘Bobby, what’s a nigger got to do to get on the cover of Rolling Stone?’ It was all white acts. I said: ‘Die.'” It’s bullshit, it’s really bullshit. One of the greatest singers in the world. Marvin never knew he was gonna be as big as he is. Now you hear him on commercials every day.”
If character is built through tragedy and hardship, Womack really was The Bravest Man in the World. One son suffocated when he was four months old. Another committed suicide. A third is in prison for second degree murder. Womack’s brother Harry, the title character of his hit, “Harry Hippie” was murdered by a girlfriend Womack dealt with the violent death of his friend Sam Cooke, divorces, a 30-year cocaine habit, lousy records, prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Womack didn’t have to sing about hard times. He lived it.
“Bad as I been, I can sing my ass off, better than I could before. Maybe it’s been preserved or something. If I can take control of my life from drugs, divorces, anything, I stand tall. I’m speaking for all those singers who gave up. Marvin, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett: I can keep naming them until you say OK, I got enough. They need more respect than can ever be given to them. And I’m gonna set the record straight.”
For those of you who don’t get what the big deal about Womack is, I cordially invite you to go listen to some ersatz Robin Thicke “soul” shit as he begs his estranged wife to take his dog ass back or some other plastic poseur.
Another of the real deal, great, original Soul Men has crossed over to that Great Gig in the Sky. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Mr. Womack.