Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Across 110th Street

I'm embarassed to admit that I recently "discovered" Bobby Womack. I had heard people talk about him before, but something about him seemed corny or too old school for me. Yeah, I was pretty dumb. That was until I came to Chicago for my first interview for Teach for America. I drove up one frosty morning from Bloomington, Indiana. I was early for my 8am interview and I was feeling nervous, hungry, and wired. Driving around the South Side of Chicago, I saw the Golden Nugget cafe, the large yellow sign shined like a heavenly beacon. And on the radio, Bobby Womack's was singing about his friend, Harry Hippy. Womack can sing it rough, he can sing it sweet, but no matter what, he's always soulful and funky.

Ever since that morning in Chicago, I've been loving me some Bobby Womack. I never realized that he sung Across 110th street, which might be the greatest song about pimping, evar.

And I love "If you think your lonely now"...

but if you haven't heard him sing "Sweet Caroline," than you are missing out.

It makes sense that I would like Bobby because I love Sam Cooke and Sam Cooke was the one who gave Bobby his first big break. Cooke produced Womack and his brothers when they were the Valentinos. It has long gone unrecognized that Sam Cooke was one of the smartest music business minds of his generation. He knew the importance of owning what he recorded. He was a peer to James Brown's revolution of the mind. (As a matter of fact he sent Womack and his brothers on tour with James Brown. Funk boot camp if you will.)

But than Cooke got shot. The circumstances of that killing are murky. There's a lot of talk, but nothing conclusive. Cooke had a history of infidelity. He had publicly supported Malcolm X. His financial independence reportedly irked record labels, some with mob ties.
The official story was that he checked into a motel near Watts and allegedly attempted to rape the woman he was with, who ran (with Cooke's clothes) to the motel manager, who apparently armed with a .22, put two shots in the unclothed Cooke and beat him with a broom stick. Sounds fishy, right? It's nothing new that a brother gets killed in suspicious circumstances, a victim of his own "impulses."

This tale involves Womack because he ended up marrying Cooke's widow, Barbara Campbell, three months after Cooke's death. The public furor over the star-crossed nuptials (which only lasted four years) caused a backlash which derailed Womack's career.

But along with being an incredible singer, Bobby is a phenomenal writer and guitarist. He wrote Wilson Pickett's, "I'm In Love",

Wrote the Rolling Stone's first (and second) hit song, "It's all over now,"

Co-wrote (along with poet Michael McClure) Janis Joplin's song, "Trust Me."

He even played guitar for Aretha Franklin on "Chain of Fools."

On April 4th, Womack will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's about time. There are few artists whose impact on American music has gone more unrecognized by the mainstream. Do yourself a favor and get some Womack in your life!

1 comment:

Pursey said...

Dear Misstra, I have been a fan for years. Found his photo on your site 'cause everday I post a song with lyrics an phots and you tube on facebook. Harry Hippie is one of my favorites. Bobby expreses such love but knows his limitations 'cause Harry pretty much gets down with what is thrown down. Harry understands the true meaning of freedom but miscalculates how many others he depends upon to enjoy his life of freedom. Email me so I can send you my facebook posting.