Remembering Bobby Womack


TORONTO–Bobby Womack has joined the ancestors. Womack died in his sleep on June 27, 2014, ac­cording to Los Angeles R&B leg­end Charles Wright.
 
Womack was born Robert Dwayne Womack on March 4, 1944. His career spanned more than 50 years and his repertoire was eclectic.
 
Womack may not be a house­hold word to the general public, but he was for many of the world’s most popular artists.
 
Though Womack was a pre­mier vocal stylist and had strug­gled for 20 years to establish him­self as a performer, it’s as a com­poser and producer that he has made his musical mark.
 
Womack wrote many of Wil­son Pickett’s classic sides, in­cluding “I’m in Love” and “Mid­night Mover.”
 
He also composed George Benson’s smash single, “Breezin’,” the J. Geils Band’s “Lookin’ For A
Love,” the Rolling Stones’ “It’s All Over Now” and James Taylor’s “Woman’s Got To Have It.”
 
His tunes have been covered by everyone from Aretha Frank­lin to Janis Joplin, and he has worked as a session man with Elvis Presley and most of black music’s legends.
 
Womack was also an author, and his autobiography, Midnight Mover, was published in London in 2006.
 
He was a self-confessed rebel in the music industry, known to ut­ter exactly what’s on his mind on any subject—from record picks to politics.
 
He performed R&B, soul, rock and roll, gospel and even country.
 
His record company, United Artists, rejected the title of his 1976 album—“Step Aside Char­ley Pride, Give Another Nigger a Try”—and changed it to “BW Goes CW.” The album sold poorly.
 
Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s label Philadelphia Interna­tional wanted Womack. Believe it or not, he turned them down and signed with Columbia Records.
 
However, he did give Philly In­ternational a secret weapon—his baby brother Cecil Womack and his wife Linda Cooke-Womack (Sam Cooke’s daughter and Bobby Womack’s stepdaughter).
 
They wrote Teddy Pendergrass’ massive hit, “Love TKO.”
 
After signing with Columbia, Womack recorded as a solo art­ist and producer. He produced the Manhattans and recorded duets with R&B veterans David Ruffin and Candi Staton.
 
This was in the 1980s, and I can remember venturing to Buf­falo, New York many times to see Womack, the Manhattans and Millie Jackson.
 
When I spoke to him in 1983, he was talking about the plight of South African blacks. He vowed not to perform in South Africa until apartheid is uprooted.
 
“I wouldn’t perform in South Africa,” said Womack as he sipped on a glass of orange juice in a New York City restaurant.
 
“I remember playing with Sam Cooke 20 years ago in Birming­ham, Alabama, and seeing whites on one side and blacks on the other. We have straightened all that out. People have died be­cause of that.”
 
He continued, “One of the greatest leaders in the world, Mar­tin Luther King, lost his life fighting against that type of situation. And I think that’s important enough for me not to feel that I’ve got to go back. My personal thing is, I don’t see why I’ve got to go to South Af­rica and see my people living un­der apartheid. I don’t want to sing that bad.”
 
The man who was called “The Preacher” and “The Poet” kept his word and turned down millions rather than entertain in Apartheid South Africa.
 
He could and would talk politics but was the first to admit, “I am an entertainer, not a politician.”
The Biko-Rodney-Malcolm Coalition (BRMC) presented Womack an award for not going to South Africa.
 
I was given the assignment to present the award to Womack at Kleinhans Music Hall.
At that time he was hotter than July with his album, The Poet. Ironically his brother, Cecil, died in South Africa in February 2013.
 
Womack’s passing is a ma­jor blow to real black music. Rod Stewart, who has built his career on black music, had this to say about Robert Dwayne Womack: “There’s only three: Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Bobby Womack.”
 
Look out for Krystle Chance
 
Look out for Krystle Chance, a Toronto based singer/songwrit­er. I first heard Chance at a book launch for Olivia Chow’s autobi­ography, My Journey at Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church.
 
Chow is running for mayor of Toronto against Rob Ford. Chance turned the house out with Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.”
 
The event took place on Cooke’s birthday, January 22th. Check out her, Moses Water and Jaydahmann working out on Cooke’s classic: http://www. jaydahmann.com/#!A-Change-i s -Go n n a -Come – – – J a y d a h ­mann-Official-Music-Video/colb/ D0CA19D2-DA32-4FFB-A8A9- 8D3FA6800084
 
Check out Kwesa Selassie
 
Another Toronto-based artist to check for is Ghana-born Kwesi Selassie. I have been playing Se­lassie’s, “Do You Remember” on my shows on Uhuru Radio and Saturday Morning Live on Radio Regent.
 
Check out Selassie: http:// kwesiselassie.com/
Norman (Otis) Richmond, aka Jalali, was born in Arcadia, Louisi­ana, and grew up in Los Angeles.
 
He left Los Angles after refusing to fight in Vietnam because he felt that, like the Vietnamese, Africans in the United States were colonial subjects.
 
Richmond is currently working as a producer/host of Saturday Morning Live on Radio Regent (radioregent. com.) He can also be heard on Dia­sporic Music on Uhuru Radio (uhuru­radio.com) His column Diasporic Music appears monthly in The Burning Spear news­paper.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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