HOW WE MET / Womack and Womack

Linda Womack, daughter of the American soul singer Sam Cooke, was born in 1953. At the age of 11 she wrote her first hit, 'I Need A Woman'. She is married to Cecil Womack, youngest of the five Womack brothers who recorded gospel and rock'n'roll with Sam Cooke during the 1950s. Cecil Womack was born in 1947. With his wife he formed the musical partnership Womack and Womack. During a recent trip to Nigeria, Linda and Cecil discovered ancestral ties to the Zekkariyas tribe, and now call themselves Zeriiya and Zekkariyas respectively. They have six children.

LINDA WOMACK (ZERIIYA): My father had the deepest regard for all the Womack brothers. He had talked about how talented Zekkariyas was since I was four years old. We didn't meet physically until I was eight, by which time I felt as though I already knew him. It was when the brothers came round to our house for a recording session. I can remember my father saying, 'They're here. I want you to come down and entertain them.' They were all very chatty except for Zekkariyas. He'd just fix me with this serious stare. I found him very intriguing, so I went and sat next to him.

We talked all evening. The only thing that shocked him was when I stood up at the end of the evening. He hadn't thought about my age until he saw how short I was. I think that really freaked him out. He had been touring as a professional guitarist since two years old, so he was very grown up. I liked that. At that age the attraction wasn't physical, but it was kind of instant. I liked him immediately because he was so similar to me.

From that evening on we were very close. People around us found our relationship confusing, particularly our families, who always felt quite nervous about us. But in my mind there was nothing sexual in it. Things changed after I was 12 years old. My father had died, and, soon after, Zekkariyas proposed to me. I knew we were much too young and that I had to get my priorities straight. Here he was talking about marriage and I hadn't even kissed a boy yet. I felt Zekkariyas was really stepping in to protect me, which was a beautiful gesture, but I certainly wasn't looking for another father figure. I said no, but we decided to keep in touch while he was touring. After that we led quite separate lives. I went off to college and got involved in theatre and dance while Zekkariyas got married, to Motown singer Mary Wells, and built up his musical career.

We kept in touch, but the important meeting happened about 10 years later, soon after his marriage to Mary had finished. I was recording at the time and felt quite unhappy about my career. I wanted to get right away from the show business scene, so I decided to visit his mother, whom I'd been close to since my childhood. When she let me in, the first thing I saw was Zekkariyas, sitting in her kitchen on the table. I had no idea that he'd be there. He looked over at me and I had the warmest feeling that we were supposed to be together. No one knew how I felt - not even him.

He asked me out soon afterwards but I didn't really trust him. By that time he was pretty famous, and I thought perhaps he just wanted something casual. I had a very definite idea about relationships. I've always been a watcher rather than a doer, and looking around I knew exactly what sort of relationship I didn't want. I wasn't into living with someone. I told him that I wanted marriage. He just said, 'What do you think I've been talking about all along?' It was very cool and planned out on his part. I couldn't believe how decisive he was. He was so 'This is what we'll do, boom, boom, boom . . .'

It took me two weeks to make up my mind. When I did he said, 'OK, we'll go to Las Vegas tonight.' We went that night and got married. It was so spontaneous, and very out of character for me. When we did get it together I think a lot of my friends were kind of jealous. Girls can be possessive, and they didn't like the fact that I'd found another best friend. Our marriage ended most of my female relationships. I didn't find it sad. It had to be like that. I found that I just didn't need anybody else except for my husband.

I could never have made a move on him. Even though I'm very strong as a woman, I do believe in different roles for the male and female. Zekkariyas has always been the leader and the provider. That's the way I like it.

Our relationship works because we value being close to each other. We share the same values and goals. I'm a purist when it comes to relationships, and Zekkariyas is exactly the same way. I still can't believe that he's so like me. He could easily be my twin.

CECIL WOMACK (ZEKKARIYAS): The first thing that struck me about Zeriiya was her maturity. At eight years old she seemed like an 18- year-old. I had always felt quite adult for my age, and so when I met her I spoke to her as an equal all evening. We talked a lot about the pitfalls of working in the music industry. The conversation was very similar to the ones we have now. She seemed so smart. It only hit me how young she was when she stood up to say goodbye. She was so small.

I did a lot of recording with her father, and so we met regularly after that. In my mind it was always romantic, but I was too scared to say anything deep to her. I never dared to kiss her because I always thought she might hit me. There was one time I was determined to overcome my nerves. We were in the back of a car with my brother. When he got out, she didn't move, so I thought, 'Do it now, quickly, before he comes back.' Of course I didn't, probably because I was much too shy.

Although our group attracted a lot of fans, I was never that interested in women. The girls who hung around bands were too immature for me. I preferred my guitar. But I could always speak to Zeriiya. I'd have to tell her all the details about the guys I worked with. She was so nosy.

By the time her father died in 1964 I felt very close to her. I decided to get my nerve together and propose to her. Either way I wanted to know how she felt about me. One evening, just before I was about to go on tour, I told her, 'I know this may sound strange to you, but I really want to marry you.' She said we were both too young. She wasn't shocked by my confession, but just thought the timing was wrong. She had plans to go to college. Sometimes I wish we had got together then.

We promised to keep in touch and met up a lot in Europe and America. Our families were close, so we always had a lot to talk about. During that time I married the singer Mary Wells. It lasted for 10 years and was a success as far as I was concerned. I'm a very faithful person, but it's tough to keep a relationship going in the entertainment business. Underneath I suppose I was always thinking of Zeriiya. I always knew in my mind that it was going to happen. When I finally separated with Mary I knew something positive would come out of it.

When I met up with her at my mother's house in Los Angeles I felt a lot more confident. I knew this time there could be no excuses. It took her two weeks to say 'yes'. I think she had some reservations because she couldn't be sure I was serious after so long. When she agreed to marry me I said, 'We'll do the ceremony later, but let's get the legal stuff out of the way right now.' I just wouldn't let her waste any time.

When we married we started working together all the time. I think that upset some people. A lot of the guys I worked with were very anti-women. They knew I was all for promoting women who could do the job well. I've had good relationships with women and kind of looked after them. I got on well with my mother but always missed having a sister.

When Zeriiya was young, I felt we were like brother and sister. I still do. We relate the same way as we've always done. I wouldn't say she is tougher than me but she's certainly more outspoken. She hasn't changed a bit, which is something I tease her about all the time. I think we're successful together because we're so alike. I love travelling and so does she. She has never been into material possessions and I'm not either. So we don't have any disagreements. We prefer to sit down and talk about how we can get closer to each other.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvMartin Freeman’s casting is a stroke of genius

Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival

film
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

    The man who could have been champion of the world

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
    Didn’t she do well?

    Didn’t she do well?

    Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
    Before they were famous

    Before they were famous

    Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

    Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players