Wednesday, September 02, 2009
The Way I Feel About Cha - The District
From the District - (9/02/09)
There is an autobiography floating around good libraries and better bookstores entitled Bobby Womack: Midnight Mover: The True Story of the Greatest Soul Singer in the World. It is a gripping 300 pages of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. And, according to Womack, “it was a lot of BS.” The book, written in the UK by various biographers, was the Oliver Stone version of Bobby Womack’s life. “When the book came out I wouldn’t promote it,” he says. “Some things were in bad taste. They didn’t get permission from me to release it. It’s not all about getting people’s attention.” A Zelig-like tale of a man who found himself in the just right place at just the right time for over 50 years of musical history, the book was only 90% true.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, 65 years ago, Womack was the third of five brothers. His father, a musician and taskmaster, pushed his sons into the music business. Originally called the Womack Brothers, they were renamed the Valentinos by Sam Cooke, who had met Womack when Womack was only nine years old. Applying the same successful transformation from gospel to soul, Cooke swapped “God” for “girls” and put them on the road with James Brown. One of their first singles, “It’s All Over Now,” became the Rolling Stones’ first number-one UK hit. “The first time I heard the Stones’ version was when Sam Cooke played it for me. He was thrilled they were cutting the song. He was thrilled because he had the publishing. ‘Why don’t they get their own song?’ I asked him. It seemed like it was just getting ready to happen for us. But when the royalty check came around I was real surprised.” Not long after, the Valentinos broke up.
Contributing heavily to the band’s demise was the death of Cooke, murdered at the Hacienda Motel in 1964. Three months later Womack married Cooke’s widow, Barbara, and found himself blacklisted from most record labels. After a few unsuccessful bids for stardom, Womack turned to his guitar, taking a position with Ray Charles. Eventually he landed in Memphis at the recommendation of another mentor, Wilson Pickett. Womack spent several years working as a guitar for hire, turning up on some of the greatest recordings to emerge from Tennessee. “Some songs they say you played on, and I don’t even remember. But I’ll listen to it and say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s me.’ I was an unknown. It’s just what we all did. We all got together and put something in the pot.” Those “pots” just happen to include Aretha’s “Chain of Fools,” Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds,” the Box Tops’ “The Letter” and a couple dozen other pop-radio standards. “I feel fortunate to have been a part of it. Twenty, 30 years later I look back and say, ‘That’s amazing.’ I just happen to have been one of the guys to be invited to the session.”
In 1969, Womack finally achieved solo success with a version of “California Dreamin’” that cracked the US Top 50. Over the next couple decades he charted with a string of hits, including “That’s the Way I Feel About Cha,” “Looking for a Love” and “Across 110th Street,” putting his distinctive growl and guitar style to more personal uses.
Last spring Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the first Clevelander to be so honored. “When I went to Cleveland I really couldn’t believe it, to see how Cleveland had really grown. I was knocked out.” With Ron Wood by his side, Womack soaked up the accolades. But he went right back to work afterwards. A few months ago he lent his pipes to the upcoming Gorillaz album, and this weekend he will be headlining the Long Beach Blues Festival. “C’mon out,” he offers. “It’ll be a Sunday. We’ll be going to church!”
LONG BEACH BLUES FESTIVAL FEATURING BOBBY WOMACK, KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD, THE FUNKY METERS, MAVIS STAPLES, JOHNNY WINTER AND MORE RAINBOW LAGOON 400 SHORELINE VILLAGE DR LONG BEACH 90802 JAZZANDBLUES.ORG SAT-SUN (WOMACK PLAYS SUN); SAT 12:30-10:20PM, SUN 12:30-9:45PM $49.50-300
The Way I Feel About Cha @ the District