Bobby Womack is an artist famed from an era where black artists were coming to the fore, though still not getting the commercial recognition of their white counterparts. Starting out as a guitarist and backing singer alongside his brothers in The Valentinos, they made headway with the single It’s All Over Now, with the assistance of mentor Sam Cooke. The track went on to be used by The Rolling Stones.
Since an early age, Womack saw an avenue for tapping into his own potential, writing songs about the experiences of people around him. He began his solo career in 1967, rubbing shoulders with huge artists and collaborating with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Sly and the Family Stone. 1976 brought us If You Think You’re Lonely Now, on what is perhaps the best record among his works, The Poet. The single reached #3 on the R&B chart and The Poet subsequently became the #1 selling album in the R&B chart. A song detailing the difficulty of being away from a loved one who wants material things, the track was firmly in Womack’s soul-tinged territory, featuring female backing vocals and a tinkling guitar riff throughout. What’s more, it features Womack speaking over the track early on, something he’s been known for.
According to an interview he had with Gilles Peterson during one of his Worldwide shows at Brownswood, Womack claimed that his excitement about sharing creative ideas with others has led to some of his work being taken, some of which he’s not been properly recognised for. Tracks he dreamed up have gone on to be used by The Rolling Stones, Simply Red and George Benson.
After generally being off the radar for twenty years recovering from drug addiction and personal issues, Bobby Womack came back to the helm with the help of UK icon, Damon Albarn. The former Blur and, more recently, Gorillaz mastermind asked Womack to deputise on vocal duties for Stylo, a track from Gorillaz third album Plastic Beach, which featured Mos Def on guest vocals and even had Bruce Willis in the video. Following this, Womack ventured into completely new territory, taking a soulful vocal thread and layering on top almost entirely electronic elements in his latest record The Bravest Man in the Universe. Again, Albarn was behind the desk and facilitated the opportunity for Womack to exercise his vocal talents once again, Womack claiming his voice was ‘better than it ever was’ back in 2011. How you take that statement from the man is up to you, but there’s no doubt he’s been an important figurehead in the industry for fifty years and has influenced countless artists in that time.