Sonya Kolowrat, the publicist for soul singer Bobby Womack announced on Friday that the R&B legend had died. He was 70. Although a cause of death was not given, Womack is known to have overcome prostate and colon cancer. He also kicked his substance abuse habit in 2012. However, he had been diagnosed with having early stages of Alzheimer’s disease two years ago after realizing he could not always remember his songs or names of people. The singer was plagued with other health issues including diabetes and heart trouble. Womack was extremely popular during the 1970s, topping the billboard charts with funk hits like:
“Across 110th Street”
“I’m looking for a Love”
“If you think You Know Me by Now”
“That’s the Way I Feel About Cha”
“Nobody Wants You When You’re Down and Out”
“A Woman’s Gotta Have It”
Born Robert Dwayne Womack in Cleveland, Ohio, Womack came from a family of musical talent. Raised in the church, his father was a minister and musician and his mother played the organ at their church. The singer with the gruff baritone voice had been an active recording artist since the 1960s, starting his career as the lead singer in his brother’s group The Valentinos. He also played backup guitar for another singing legend, Sam Cooke, who initially discovered the group.
A phenomenally skilled guitarist, Womack was a part of the Memphis sound during the 1960s and 1970s, playing on recordings for singers like Joe Tex and Aretha Franklin. He’s also worked with numerous artists such as Wilton Felder, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin and Patti LaBelle. He wrote the hit piece “Breezin’” for fellow instrumentalist George Benson.
Womack’s career started to crawl, in part, due to his struggle with drug addiction and perhaps somewhat due to his turbulent and controversial life which had seen its share of tragic events. Just three months after the murder of Sam Cooke, a then 21-year-old Womack married Cooke’s widow Barbara. The pair divorced 11 years later. Their son Truth died in 1978 at the age of four-months and another son Vincent Womack committed suicide in 1988 at the age of 21. Bobby’s younger brother Cecil married Sam and Barbara Cook’s daughter Linda. Cecil had been previously married to Motown’s “My Guy” singer Mary Wells who later had a long and abusive affair with another brother, Curtis Womack.
Admired and respected by many, Womack’s songs have been sampled by the likes of Jodeci’s K-Ci Hailey, Gerald Levert, Mary J. Blige and Nona Gaye. “Across 110th Street” was featured in the Quenton Tarantino film “Jackie Brown” and in the Denzel Washington blockbuster “American Gangster.”
Womack had been a frequent guest on popular dance shows like “Soul Train” and in 2012 TVOne chronicled his career on their documentary show “Unsung.” Womack performed earlier this month at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. The release of his next album “The Best is Yet to Come” is slated to be released sometime this year and features Snoop Dogg, Ron Isley and Stevie Wonder.
Bobby Womack is survived by four of his six children.