Cecil Womack: Half of the husband-and-wife duo known for their soul hits of the 1980s

Bobby Womack admitted he'd had an affair with Linda; the brothers did not speak for years

The husband-and-wife duo of Cecil and Linda Womack made some of the most enduring, sensuous, slinky, soul records of the 1980, starting with their wonderful debut album Love Wars, a favourite on US urban stations with the quiet storm ballads “Baby I'm Scared Of You” and “Express Myself”, and its electro-funk title track, which became their UK chart debut in 1984. However, Womack & Womack are probably best remembered for the naggingly catchy “Teardrops”, a Top 3 hit throughout much of the world in 1988, which has since been revived by many, including Elton John and k.d. lang, the Sugababes and Joss Stone

Expertly produced by Stewart Levine, Love Wars also contained a version of Cecil Womack's best-known song, “Love T.K.O.”, co-written with Eddie Noble, Jr. First recorded by David Oliver, but popularised on both sides of the Atlantic by Teddy Pendergrass in 1980, “Love T.K.O.” was subsequently covered by Debbie Harry, Hall & Oates, Bette Midler, Boz Scaggs, Lambchop, Michael McDonald, Seal and the Beautiful South.

Drawing from their own, convoluted, personal experiences, Cecil and his wife, who had known each other since childhood, were experts at captivating the trials, travails and tribulations of love. Cecil had previously been married to the Motown star Mary Wells, while his older brother Bobby married Linda's mother, the widow of the gospel-turned-soul singer Sam Cooke, in 1965, and admitted to a 1970 affair with Linda in his 2006 autobiography Midnight Mover.

Born in 1947, Cecil Womack was the youngest of five sons born to a steelworker who often sang gospel with his own siblings as the Womack Brothers in Charleston, West Virginia, and continued to do so after moving to Cleveland with a group called the Voices of Love. Nicknamed “Cornflakes”, Cecil slept in the same big bed as Friendly Jr – who was named after his father – Curtis, Bobby and Harry, and joined them in imitating their father's group and playing his guitar until they were found out and encouraged to practice their harmonies.

Eventually, their father quit his job and revived the Womack Brothers, now featuring his five sons, performing in churches across the Midwest. In 1953 they opened for the Soul Stirrers at the Friendship Baptist Church in Cleveland and came to the attention of their good-looking frontman, Sam Cooke, who mentored them.

They joined the “gospel highway” circuit alongside the Blind Boys of Alabama, the Pilgrim Travelers and the Staples Singers before signing to Cooke's new label, SAR Records, and moving to Los Angeles. After a flop gospel single in 1961, they changed their names to The Valentinos and sold two million copies of “Lookin' For A Love”, a secular adaptation of “Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray”, featuring Bobby Womack on lead, in 1962.

By then, Friendly Jr and Curtis had graduated, and Bobby, Harry and Cecil quit school to concentrate on “the devil's music”, to the horror of their religious father. They toured with James Brown, and scored another crossover hit with “It's All Over Now”, which was subsequently covered by the Rolling Stones, but the fall-out from Cooke's death – he was shot by a motel manager in Los Angeles in December 1964 – and Bobby Womack's marriage halted their progress.

They called it a day after releasing a couple of singles on the Chicago label Chess in 1966. Cecil helped Wells write and produce Servin' Up Some Soul, her 1968 album for Jubilee Records, which featured the other Womacks, as did several of Bobby's solo albums in the 1970s and '80s. He also wrote several of his brother's stand-out tracks, including “Stand Up” on The Poet album and “I Wish I Had Someone To Go Home To” on The Poet II, though Bobby admitted in his autobiography that he hadn't spoken to Cecil in years.

In 1976, Cecil Womack filed for divorce from Wells on the grounds that she was having an affair with his brother Curtis. The following year he married Linda Cooke and they hit a creative purple patch, composing material that went on to be recorded by George Benson, Eric Clapton, Patti LaBelle, Bonnie Raitt, Ruby Turner, The Dells, The Dramatics and The O'Jays. As Womack & Womack, their intertwined vocals – Cecil's grainy tenor was eerily similar to Bobby's – and mastery of the songwriting process, combined with his understanding of studio technology, brought them critical acclaim and steady album sales, not only with Love Wars, but also their 1985 follow-up for Elektra, Radio M.U.S.I.C. Man.

In January 1987 they headlined the Royal Albert Hall in London before signing to Fourth & Broadway, Island's dance imprint, and making the Conscience album, co-produced by Chris Blackwell, and featuring several of their offspring. The album spent close to a year on the charts and spawned not only “Teardrops”, but also two further UK Top 40 entries, “Life's Just A Ballgame” and “Celebrate The World”, which were indicative of the wider concerns they continued exploring on 1991's Family Spirit.

This African-centric consciousness coalesced during a trip to Nigeria, where they discovered ancestral ties to the Zekkariyas tribe and both adopted African names, Cecil becoming known as Zekuumba Zekkariyas and Linda as Zeriiya Zekkariyas. In 1993 they issued an album, Transformation To The House of Zekkariyas, and moved from the US to South Africa with their children.

The seven-year age difference, which had prevented Cecil and Linda getting together in the mid-'60s, had long ceased being a big deal. “When Zeriiya was young, I felt we were like brother and sister,” he told The Independent On Sunday when interviewed for the How We Met feature in 1994. “I still do. We relate the same way as we've always done. 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.”

 

Cecil Dale Womack, singer, songwriter, musician and producer: born Cleveland, Ohio 25 September 1947; one son; married 1967 Mary Wells (divorced 1976; two sons, one daughter), 1977 Linda Cooke (six children); died South Africa 1 February 2013.

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
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?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Geography Teacher

£130 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Secondary Geography Teacher Lo...

Do you want to work in Education?

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you a dynamic and energeti...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: SEN TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed...

Private Client Senior Manager - Sheffield

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: The Sheffield office of this...

Day In a Page

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
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit