Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

June 29, 2014

Womack dies at 70

CLEVELAND — Bobby Womack, a colorful and highly influential R&B singer-songwriter who influenced artists from the Rolling Stones to Damon Albarn, has died. He was 70. Womack's publicist Sonya Kolowrat said Friday that the singer had died, but she could provide no other details.

Womack made his mark as a vocalist, innovative guitar player and as a songwriter with a special gift of understanding complex human relationships as well as the pressures associated with inner-city, urban life. Womack was born in Cleveland, but his parents, the late Friendly Womack Sr., and Naomi Reed Womack, were both McDowell County natives. Womack was most recently in Bluefield on Dec. 17, 2011, for his mother’s funeral.

The Womack family had a reputation as one of McDowell County’s leading gospel music families. Friendly Womack Sr.’s brother, Solomon Womack was a founding member of Claude Jeter’s Swan Silvertones. As young boys, Friendly Jr., Curtis, Bobby, Cecil and Harry Womack performed as the Valentinoes. Sam Cooke wanted the group to record popular music, but he also liked Bobby’s guitar work, and asked him to join the group.

In addition to performing with Cooke, Womack played guitar with other artists including Wilson Pickett and Jimi Hendrix who introduced Womack to the wah-wah sound in 1962.

While still with the Valentinos, Bobby and Shirley Womack penned the Rolling Stones’ first U.S. hit, “It’s All Over Now.” Womack also wrote “Midnight Mover,” with Pickett, but his semi-autobiographical song, “Across 110th Street”  was his most powerful composition. It incorporates his talents as both a musician, songwriter and observer of life in the U.S.

With an incomparable voice few could match, Womack was a stirring singer and guitarist in his own right and a powerful songwriter whose hits like "Across 110th Street," ''If You Think You're Lonely Now" and "I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much" captured the imagination of future stars in rock 'n' roll and R&B.

"He had a style that nobody else could ever capture," longtime friend, gospel singer Candi Staton, said in a statement. "I loved him and I will miss him so, so very much."

Womack's death comes as something of a surprise. Though he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease two years ago and overcame addiction and multiple health issues, including prostate and colon cancer, recently, he seemed in good health and spirits when he performed earlier this month at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.

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