Q awards get soulful as Bobby Womack beats cancer and pneumonia to win album of the year (with a little help from Damon Albarn)
Bobby Womack was recuperating from pneumonia and colon cancer in a hospital bed when Damon Albarn first called. Now the soul legend’s comeback has been sealed after the record he crafted with the Blur frontman was named album of the year.
Womack, 68, took the prize at the Q magazine awards for The Bravest Man In The Universe, the album co-produced by Albarn, which set the soul man’s emotional vocals against a backing of contemporary, electronic textures.
Womack, who worked with Sam Cooke and wrote The Rolling Stones’ first chart-topper It’s All Over Now, had never heard of Albarn, when the Britpop star first suggested a collaboration for his Gorillaz project.
Now Womack, who battled drug addiction for 30 years and recently overcame a potentially fatal bout of pneumonia, credits Albarn’s determination to revive his career, with saving his life.
“During the time I was ill in hospital, the thing that kept me alive was Damon,” Womack said. “He was really interested in me. That’s what brought me back to life.”
Accepting his award, Womack appeared momentarily confused, thanking his collaborator “Damon Osborne”.
Although still frail, the Cleveland-born singer, described as the “Poet Laureate of the Ghetto”, has returned to the stage in the wake of the critically-acclaimed Bravest Man… album.
Albarn himself was honoured at the Grosvenor House ceremony, as Blur beat the Radiohead and the reformed Stone Roses to take the best Live Act prize. Blur headlined an Olympic Games closing ceremony concert at Hyde Park but their future recording plans remain uncertain.
Womack’s victory reflected a shift at the monthly music magazine’s awards, normally an event marked by rock n’roll decadence, towards soul music. Dionne Warwick, 71, currently celebrating 50 years on the stage, won the Classic Song award for Walk On By, the 1964 Burt Bacharach and Hal David composition.
Warwick was helped on to the stage after suffering a fall in her London hotel bathroom.
Adele, who has given birth to a baby boy, was beaten to the Best Solo Artist prize by Emeli Sandé, the Scottish singer whose debut album Our Version of Events is approaching triple platinum UK sales and has been in the Top 10 since its release in February.
The year’s Best Track was claimed by Plan B for Ill Manors, the London rapper’s bitter response to last Summer’s riots. The title track to an uncompromising film, Ill Manors attacked David Cameron and the stereotyping of teenagers on troubled estates as “chavs”.
The magazine’s readers voted Muse, the stadium-filling modern prog rock trio, the Best Act In The World, beating Coldplay, Blur, The Stone Roses and Radiohead.
Underworld, the techno group who created the seamless musical soundtrack for Danny Boyle’s widely-praised Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, received recognition with the Innovation In Sound honour.
The magazine also honoured Johnny Marr, former guitarist with The Smiths, Dexys, the latest incarnation of Kevin Rowland’s soul-rock survivors and Brandon Flowers, singer with The Killers.
Django Django, the Scottish art-rock quartet, who are nominated for the Mercury Music Prize next week, took the Best New Act prize.
Jarvis Cocker of Pulp collected the Q inspiration award and thanked late DJ John Peel for his early support for the band. He also aimed a swipe at the current trend for popstars produced by the Brits school for performing arts, such as Jessie J.
“Just make a noise in your bedroom,” he told aspiring musicians. “It’s not like you have to go to some kind of academy. Anyone can do it.”
When Blur took their Best Live Act prize, drummer Dave Rowntree, who recently qualified as a solicitor, said he had received time off to attend: “I’m now a criminal lawyer and this is my lunch hour.”
Bassist Alex James held out the prospect of more Blur shows, saying: “I’d forgotten quite how much I like making that noise.”
Q hero winner Johnny Marr said “if this award is my reward for 25 years of stupid reunion questions, then I’ll take it.”
Andrew Harrison, Q editor, said: “It’s been the most incredible year for British music. Our bands and our anthems transformed the Olympics into the greatest music event on Earth. And amazing comeback shows from Blur and the Stone Roses showed the enduring appeal of our greatest musicians.”
Special guest presenters at the awards included Kylie Minogue, Alice Cooper and Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw.
Q Awards 2012 Winners
Q Best New Act - Django Django
Best Track – Plan B ‘Ill Manors’
Best Album – Bobby Womack ‘The Bravest Man In The World’
Best Live Act - Blur
Best Video – Keane: Disconnected
Best Solo Artist - Emeli Sandé
Best Act In The World Today - Muse
Q Classic Song – Dionne Warwick ‘Walk On By’
Q Spirit Of Independence – The Cribs
Q Innovation In Sound - Underworld
Q Inspiration Award - Pulp
Q Icon Award - Dexys
Q Classic Album - Manic Street Preachers ‘Generation Terrorists’
Q Hero – Johnny Marr
Q Idol – Brandon Flowers
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