According to singer/songwriter Bobby Womack’s publicist Sonya Kolowrat, the legendary rhythm and blues singer passed away on Friday. Womack had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about two years ago and was also suffering with other ailments including prostate cancer. Kolowrat confirmed the death but gave no other details. He performed two weeks ago at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., and seemed in good health and spirits.
Womack was a native of Cleveland, Ohio and was the third son born to a minister/musician who would eventually have five sons total. The Womack sons inherited the musical abilities of their father and began performing at a very young age. The siblings formed a group called the Womack Brothers and were discovered by Sam Cooke in 1956. It was the relationship with the then famous Cooke that would eventually set a course for Womack that he would spend the rest of his life trying to shake. Following the death of Cooke who was brutally killed outside a Los Angeles hotel in 1964, Womack married Cooke’s widow Barbara a few months later. They eventually divorced in 1971.
It was during this period of time that Womack wrote and performed some of his most memorable music. Womack found work as a songwriter and session guitarist for Aretha Franklin, Sly Stone, the Stones, Rod Stewart, Joe Tex and others in the late ’60s, before enjoying a steady string of his own hits between 1971-1985.
During a period of his life when he was trying to get the demons of drugs of his back he said: “If I walked into a restaurant and saw somebody that looked like a musician, I would walk back out. They were either going to turn me back onto drugs or they were going to ask what I was doing, and I would have to lie.”
Womack was affectionately called “The Preacher” because of the soulful manner in which he delivered his songs. His combination of soul and gospel coupled with the ability to play the guitar as well as anyone who has ever plucked a string, made him unique and captivating in live performances and boosted his album sales at a time when he really needed the cash. Womack was determined to capitalize on his new found fame and fortune and said: “This is a new Womack,” he promised. “The best you’ve ever seen. I survived the storm.”
In an interview Womack did a little less than two years ago he said: “I know God is in the blessing business because I’m not supposed to be here,” Womack told USA TODAY in July 2012, nearly 20 years after beating a cocaine addiction. “There’s still a lot for me to do, and if I can sing some great music and make people happy, I’ve got the best gig in the world.”