Bobby Womack: The sad death of a soul survivor

He worked with Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Wilson Pickett, Damon Albarn – and set the Rolling Stones on their road to fame

Bobby Womack, the legendary soul singer who died on Friday, drew on his own experiences for many of his greatest hits.

And across the world yesterday and in particular in one muddy corner of Somerset at Glastonbury, the passing of the "third brother of five" ("Across 110th Street") was mourned as a loss to the entire music industry.

The singer and guitarist, who was a session musician for Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Dusty Springfield and Wilson Pickett, left a rich musical legacy spanning seven decades and 28 studio albums.

Although the cause of the 70-year-old's death was not announced, he had suffered from cancer and Alzheimer's, and had battled drug addiction. Womack, born Robert Dwayne Womack in Cleveland, Ohio, had been due to perform at the Womad music festival in Wiltshire next month. Peter Gabriel, the former Genesis singer and Womad's founder, said Womack's songs had become "part of the fabric of so many musical lives".

At Worthy Farm, where thousands had gathered for Glastonbury, hip-hop pioneers De La Soul tweeted after their performance: "We had an amazing time touring around the world with him. We love you Mr Womack."

 

Womack, whose mother told him he could "sing his way out of the ghetto", was spotted, aged 10, by soul singer Sam Cooke, while performing in church with his siblings. They later formed a group, The Valentinos. In his early twenties Womack was asked by Cooke if an up-and-coming British group called The Rolling Stones could cover his song "It's All Over Now". It was the Stones' first hit. Guitarist Ronnie Wood described Womack yesterday as "the man who could make you cry when he sang".

But Womack's life was blighted by drugs, and he slipped off the radar for years at a time. Despite this – and pneumonia, diabetes, two forms of cancer and the early stages of Alzheimer's – Womack outlived most of the artists he was associated with, including Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. He said towards the end of his career: "Maybe if I wasn't high, my life might not have lasted so long."

Womack released his first studio album for more than 12 years in 2012, The Bravest Man in the Universe, co-produced by Damon Albarn. "I will see my brother in church," the former Blur frontman tweeted yesterday.

Womack was working on a new album at the time of his death – The Best is Yet to Come – said to feature Snoop Dogg, Rod Stewart, Stevie Wonder and Adele. "He had a style nobody else could ever capture," said soul and gospel singer Candi Staton, who had known him since she was 13. "I loved him and I will miss him."

Womack had promised: "This is a new Womack. The best you've ever seen. I survived the storm."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering