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Bobby Womack

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Bobby born in Cleveland's Fairfax neighborhood, near East 85th Street and Quincy Avenue ( March 4, 1944 ) to Naomi Womack and Friendly Womack,  was the third of five brothers. Raised Baptist, their mother played the organ for the church choir, and their father was a steelworker, part-time minister, and musician who played the guitar and also sang gospel. Their father repeatedly ordered his sons to not touch his guitar while he was away, yet all five brothers regularly played it while their father was at work. One night, eight-year-old Bobby broke a guitar string, then tried to replace the string with a shoelace. After Friendly deduced that Bobby (who was missing a shoelace) had broken the string, he offered Bobby the chance to play the guitar for him in lieu of a whipping. Soon afterwards, Friendly bought guitars for all five of his sons. Because Bobby was left-handed, he flipped his guitar upside-down to play, not knowing that the guitar could have been restrung to accommodate a left-handed player. By the mid-1950s,10-year-old Bobby was touring with his brothers on the midwest gospel circuit as The Womack Brothers, along with Naomi on organ and Friendly Sr. on guitar. In 1954, under the moniker Curtis Womack and the Womack Brothers, the group issued the Pennant single, "Buffalo Bill". More records followed. Sam Cooke, the lead singer of The Soul Stirrers, first saw the group performing in the mid-1950s. He became their mentor and helped them go on tour. They went on national tours with The Staple Singers. Even though Curtis often sang lead, Bobby was allowed to sing alongside him showcasing his gruff baritone vocals in contrast to his older brother's smoother tenor. During performances, Bobby would sometimes imitate the role of a preacher, which later became his nickname. At just 16, Bobby dropped out of high school. At the beginning of the 1960s, Cooke formed SAR Records and signed the quintet to the label in 1961, where they released a handful of gospel singles. Then, Cooke changed their name to the Valentinos, relocated them to Los Angeles and convinced them to transition from gospel music to secular soul-and pop-influenced sound. Cooke produced and arranged the group's first hit single, "Lookin' for a Love", which was a pop version of the gospel song, "Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray", they had recorded earlier. The song became an R&B hit and helped land the group an opening spot for James Brown's tour. The group's next hit came in 1964 with the country-tinged "It's All Over Now", co-composed by Bobby. Their version was rising on the charts when The Rolling Stones covered it.

Womack was also a member of Cooke's band, touring and recording with him from 1961. The Valentinos' career was left shaky after Sam Cooke was shot and killed in a Los Angeles motel. Devastated by the news, the brothers disbanded and SAR Records folded. Womack attempted to start his solo career in 1965, first recording for Him Records and later the Chess Records subsidiary, Checker Records. Womack faced backlash after his marriage to Cooke's widow Barbara Cooke. He would go to radio stations and disc jockeys would throw away his records. He continued to work as a session musician. Between 1965 and 1968, he toured and recorded with Ray Charles. Circa 1965, Womack relocated to Memphis where he worked at Chips Moman's American Studios. He played guitar on recordings by Joe Tex and the Box Tops. Womack played guitar on several of Aretha Franklin's albums, including Lady Soul, but not on the hit song "Chain of Fools", as erroneously reported. His work as a songwriter caught the eye of music executives after Wilson Pickett took a liking to some of Womack's songs and insisted on recording them. Among the songs were "I'm a Midnight Mover" and "I'm in Love". In 1968, Bobby signed with Minit Records and recorded his first solo album, Fly Me to the Moon, where he scored his first major hit with a cover of Barry McGuire' "California Dreamin'". In 1969, Womack forged a partnership with Gábor Szabó and with Szabó, penned the instrumental "Breezin'", later a hit for George Benson. Womack also worked with rock musicians Sly and the Family Stone and Janis Joplin, contributing vocals and guitar work on the Family Stone's accomplished album There's a Riot Goin' On, and penning the ballad "Trust Me", for Joplin on her album Pearl. In fact, Womack was one of the last people to see Joplin alive, having visited her hours before she died at the Landmark Hotel in Los Angeles, California. After two more albums with Minit, Bobby switched labels, signing with United Artists where he changed his attire and his musical direction with the album Communication. The album bolstered his first top 40 hit, "That's the Way I Feel About Cha", which peaked at number two R&B and number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1972. Following Communication, Womack's profile was raised with two more albums, released in 1972. The first was Understanding, noted for the track "I Can Understand It", later covered by the funk band New Birth and a three-sibling lineup of Bobby's old group, the Valentinos, and two hit singles, "Woman's Gotta Have It" and "Harry Hippie". The latter song was written for Womack by Jim Ford in a country version, which Womack re-arranged in an R&B version. "Harry Hippie" later became Womack's first single to be certified gold. "Woman's Gotta Have It" became Womack's first single to hit number one on the R&B charts.

Another hit album released after Understanding was the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Across 110th Street. The title track became popular during its initial 1972 release and later would be played during the opening and closing scenes of the 1997 film, Jackie Brown. In 1973, Womack released another hit album, Facts of Life, and had a top 40 hit with "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," an older song Sam Cooke had done years before. In 1974, Womack released his most successful single during this period with a remake of his first hit single, "Lookin' for a Love". His solo version of the song became even more successful than the original with the Valentinos, becoming his second number one hit on the R&B chart and peaking at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming his only hit to reach that high on the pop chart. The song was featured on the album Lookin' for a Love Again and featured the minor charted "You're Welcome, Stop on By", later covered by Rufus & Chaka Khan. Womack's career began stalling after Womack received the news of his brother Harry's death. Womack continued to record albums with United Artists through 1975 and 1976 but with less success than previous albums. In 1975, Womack collaborated with Rolling Stones member Ronnie Wood, on Wood's second solo album, Now Look. In 1976, Womack organized a benefit at the Hollywood Palladium to raise funds for his friend, singer Jackie Wilson, who had suffered a heart attack. Womack languished with his own recordings during the late 1970s but continued to be a frequent collaborator with other artists, most notably Wilton Felder of the Crusaders. After his son Truth Bobby died in 1978, Womack formed a production company named Truth. He hired a new co-producer and Keyboardist, Patrick Moten who worked with Ike Turner and Natalie Cole, and released the album Roads of Life on Arista Records in 1979. In 1980, Wilton Felder released the album Inherit the Wind on MCA Records which featured Womack. He had a soulful song featuring on the Wilton Felder single "(No Matter How High I Get) I'll Still Be Looking Up to You". This song became a soul classic, notably in the UK - Robbie Vincent at Radio London included the track as one of his all - time winners in October 1982. In 1981, Womack signed with Beverly Glen Records and had his first R&B top 10 single in five years - since the 1976 single "Daylight" - with "If You Think You're Lonely Now" that peaked at number three on the R&B singles chart. His accompanying album The Poet reached number one on the R&B album charts and is now seen as the high point of his long career, bringing him wider acclaim not only in the U.S. but also in Europe. He had two more R&B top 10 singles during the 1980s including the Patti LaBelle duet, "Love Has Finally Come at Last" (1984), and "I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much" (1985). In 1986, Bobby recorded soul song "Living in a Box" with new group Living in a Box.

In 1993 Bobby Womack and Lulu released song "I'm Back for more". Womack's solo career started to slow down after 1994. In the mid-1990s, he released his twentieth studio album, Resurrection on his close friend's Ronnie Wood's label. The album included session background work from admiring associates that included Rod Stewart, Ronald Isley, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts. His remaining brothers from the Valentinos, Curtis, Friendly and Cecil, featured as background singers. Two singles from the album - a duet with Ronald Isley, "Tryin' Not to Break Down", and "Forever Love" - appeared on the Billboard R&B chart, but although the album contained two of Womack's best latter songs, "Cousin Henry" and "Don't Break Your Promise (Too Soon)", the album received a mixed critical reception. Judges sitting in the high court in London in 2003 ruled that Bobby Womack stole the song "Cry Myself to Sleep" which appeared on the album from Liverpool musician and songwriter Mark Thomas, who never received the outstanding royalty payments due to him. A gospel album, Back to My Roots, appeared at the end of the decade, but Womack largely concentrated on session and guest work for the next ten years. In 1986, The Manhattans released the album Back To Basics, which contained songs written and produced by Womack. Womack contributed vocals and acoustic guitar to the songs "Where Did We Go Wrong" (duet with Regina Belle), "I'm Through Trying to Prove My Love to You", "Mr D.J." and "Back into the Night". He is the featured vocalist on June Yamagishi's My Pleasure album, on "Inherit The Wind", a track credited to Wilton Felder, and with Allen Toussaint on "Sputin", and he contributed vocals to Rae & Christian's version of "Wake Up Everybody". Other collaborations included "You Got What It Takes" with Diane Schuur, "Ain't Nothing Like The Lovin' We Got" with Shirley Brown, "Break the Chain" with Andrew Love & Wayne Jackson and "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" with Jeanie Tracy. In 1989, Womack sang on Todd Rundgren's "For the Want of a Nail" on the album Nearly Human. In 1998, he performed George Gershwin's "Summertime" with The Roots for the Red Hot Organization's compilation album Red Hot + Rhapsody, a tribute to Gershwin, which raised money for various charities devoted to increasing AIDS awareness and fighting the disease. In October 1992, Womack held four tribute concert for his friend Eddie Kendricks. Womack planned the concert before Kendricks, who suffered from lung cancer, died on October 5, 1992. Womack headlined the concert; other performers included Chaka Khan, Mary Wilson, and Bill Withers.

In 2010, Womack contributed lyrics and sang on "Stylo" alongside Mos Def, the first single from the third Gorillaz album Plastic Beach. Womack was told to sing whatever was on his mind during the recording of "Stylo". "I was in there for an hour going crazy about love and politics, getting it off my chest," said Womack. He also provided vocals on the song "Cloud of Unknowing" in addition to the song "Bobby in Phoenix" on their December 2010 release The Fall. A new album was released on June 12, 2012, by XL Recordings. The album, The Bravest Man in the Universe, was produced by Damon Albarn and Richard Russell. The first Song "Please Forgive My Heart" was offered as a free download on XL Recordings' official website on March 8, 2012. Contact Music reported that Womack was working on a blues album called Living in the House of Blues, featuring collaborations with Stevie Wonder, Snoop Dogg, and Rod Stewart. In an interview with Uncut, Womack revealed that the follow-up album would now be called The Best Is Yet to Come and feature Teena Marie and Ronnie Isley. Womack's final concert was June 14, 2014 at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee. Womack died at his home in Tarzana, California at the age of 70 on June 27, 2014. He was cremated, and his ashes were interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

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