Born March 4, 1944 in Cleveland, Ohio, Bobby Womack was a prolific songwriter, a great singer and a top-notch guitarist who spent six decades in music as a writer, producer and performer. His songs were covered by artists ranging from Aretha Franklin, Rufus & Chaka Khan and the J. Geils Band, to Kelly Rowland and Mary J. Blige.
You might think that 60 years of great, influential music would land Womack in someone’s hall of fame, and you would be correct. In 2009, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with his friend Ron Wood (of the Rolling Stones) doing the honors.
If you had to describe Bobby Womack in five songs, these are the ones to use:
The Valentinos, “Lookin’ for a Love” (1962)
Womack and his brother Cecil were part of a family gospel group until 1961, when Sam Cooke convinced them to change their name to The Valentinos and start making pop and R&B records on Cooke’s record label, SAR. The label’s staff writers took a gospel tune the Womack boys had been playing, “Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray,” and rewrote it with secular lyrics. The result was “Lookin’ for a Love,” which The Valentinos took to No. 8 on the R&B chart and No. 72 on the pop chart. In 1972, the J. Geils Band had a Top 40 hit with the song, and two years after that, Womack himself would record a fresh solo version, and have a Top 10 pop hit with it.
“If You Think You’re Lonely Now” (1982)
This mid-tempo soul ballad hit No. 3 on the R&B chart in 1982. It was the first single from Womack’s album The Poet, largely regarded as one of his best.
“Woman’s Gotta Have It” (1972)
This No. 1 R&B hit found Womack elaborating on all the things a man should do to keep his woman happy. He reveals this wisdom to be hard-earned: “Oh, I had a love and I lost her,” Womack sings, “And no one can help me share the pain that it cost me.”
“That's the Way I Feel About Cha” (1972)
This slow jam started a run of chart hits for Womack, and it’s not hard to hear why. Check out the contrast between his gruff vocal and the creamy strings that buoy it – this was ‘70s soul at its most immaculate.
The Valentinos, “It’s All Over Now” (1964)
The Rolling Stones had their first No. 1 hit in America in July 1964 with their take on this song, but Womack and his brother Cecil had the first go-round a month earlier, when The Valentinos charted with it for two weeks.