Bobby Womack, is one of the most innovative artists of the last five decades. Starting out as a guitarist with Sam Cooke, Womack went on to create some of the most memorable music of our times.
For instance, the critically acclaimed hit, “Across 110th Street”, was written by Bobby Womack and J.J. Johnson, and rose to No. 19 hit on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart in 1973. The track later featured in Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 blaxploitation homage “Jackie Brown”. Lately, Womack contributed lyrics and sang on “Stylo” along with Mos Def, the first single from the third Gorillaz album, “Plastic Beach”. Bobby Womack is a guy who has been there, lived it and done it. Now in his 60’s, he still cuts an elegant figure.
Jojo Ruocco – a drummer and percussionist who worked with Womack in the Spring of 1986 – says the man is a walking miracle. Despite personal tragedy, and two life-threatening illnesses, the man still has audiences eating out of the palm of his hand; even while sitting down.You could say that Bobby Womack launched the Rolling Stones. Bobby Womack wrote and originally recorded The Rolling Stones’ first UK No. 1 hit, “It’s All Over Now” . In June 1964, when Jagger and Richards, first heard the song, they scuffled off to do a cover, and within three weeks, Mick and Keith were cutting their milk teeth in the British charts. That song was first recorded by The Valentinos, a band composed of Bobby and his four brothers.
That first hit was the start of a long and lucrative career for the Rolling Stones. Needless to say, the Stones skyrocketed to fame and fortune on the back of Black American roots music, exploiting it to the bone. Their commercial genius was never in doubt, but the subtle refinement of the original blues material always seemed to escape them, even at their very best. Yet even today, despite looking like satyrs from the “The Circus of Dr. Lao”, the four strolling bones still manage to snatch most of the media limelight. So you have to wonder whether things have changed much since the 1960’s, when the mystery of the blues first tormented Keith and Mick.
At the same time, Bobby Womack’s artistic star hasn’t yet waned. The new material is elegiac, and emotionally nuanced. The opening set at Glastonbury included the song “Please Forgive My Heart “ a tender cry from the soul, asking for forgiveness. The song was accompanied by slow, sombre percussion, provided by two band members from Damon Albern’s virtual hip-hop band, Gorillaz. This moving piece of work appears on Bobby Womack’s newest album, “The Bravest Man In The Universe”. The song, “Please Forgive My Heart’, is as much a poem as a song. Composed of two quatrains and a free verse chorus, these carefully crafted lyrics,
the dawn is a silent witness
To the blindness of the night
And we see our reflection so clear
In the blush of morning light
Womack sings this passionate invocation with rawness and restraint; soul music at its finest.
He has has a tight crew backing him on stage, including two guitarists and a three piece horn section. These guys are session pros, many of whom have worked with Womack for a long time. Gina Womack, (Bobby’s daughter), has inherited her father’s musical prowess. Gina sang “A Change Is Gonna Come”, in the form of a duet with her father, which was wildly appreciated by the audience. Gina Womack heads three backing singers – the others are Lisa K Coulter, and Alltrinna Grayson
Grayson is a significant artist in her own right. With a voice schooled in gospel, and fully loaded with an eight octave range, Alltrinna’s soaring vocals helped drive “Love Has Finally Come At Last” straight into the top ten back in the 1980’s. Like others in the band, Grayson has been working with Womack for over 35 years, a testament to Womack’s skill as a bandleader and a musician.
Loyalty is a quality that Womack inspires. Another virtuoso act is Regina Womack, Bobby’s wife, who handles the band’s main business while Womack is out on tour. Regina’s smooth support is vital, it allows Bobby to focus on the music, while Regina strategically manages the band. In the end, this is not merely a band. It is a family of musicians and artists; a vital sign in the deadly ‘pop idol’ infested scene. With so many years invested in the synchronicity of their sound, it’s important that these guys stick around.
Since this piece was written, sadly Bobby Womack has now passed away, RIP brave man of the universe.