Bobby Womack Biography
Claim to Fame: American soul singer and musician
DOB: March 4, 19445
Diabetes Type: 2
Robert "Bobby" Dwayne Womack was born on March 4, 1944 into a spiritual and musical family in Cleveland, Ohio. It didn't take long for Bobby's soulful Baptist upbringing to manifest in a creative endeavor — when Bobby was just 10 years old, he and his four brothers, Friendly Jr., Cecil, Harry, and Curtis formed a musical group called The Womack Brothers. The group began to tour the gospel circuit, accompanied by their mother, Naomi, on the organ and father, Friendly Sr., on the guitar.
The little known group was noticed in a big way by one of soul music's founders, the King of Soul himself, Sam Cooke. In 1961 Cooke set up SAR Records in Los Angeles and signed the Womack Brothers to the record label, renaming them the Valentinos and introducing them as a pop group. The boys moved to Los Angeles after a disappointed Friendly Sr. told them to leave the house as a result of their decision to transition into the pop culture world. Following the group's first hit single, "Looking for a Love," the Rolling Stones covered "It's All Over Now," making Bobby's co-composed song a 1964 hit.
Just as the Womack boys were beginning to find their footing on the ladder of success at Cooke's record label, tragedy struck when Sam was murdered in 1964. Without Cooke, SAR Records unraveled, which ultimately led to the group's breakup and gave birth to the beginnings of Bobby's solo career.
Womack started out working alongside artists including The Box Tops, Aretha Franklin, and Janis Joplin, adding guitar and vocals on their albums. He signed with Minit Records in 1968 and recorded his debut solo album, Fly Me to the Moon. From there he left Minit and signed with United Artists. His album Communication put him on the map with his first top 40 hit, "That's the Way I feel About Cha" in 1972.
Between 1972 and the mid-1980's, Womack continued to garner fame and recognition as he put out numerous albums and successful singles including "I Can Understand It," "Harry Hippie," "Lookin' for a Love," and "If You Think You're Lonely Now."
Over the years, Bobby Womack has been no stranger to adversity. He struggled with a cocaine addiction in the late 1980's and had to deal with the suicide of one of his six sons and the sudden death of another. He was diagnosed with numerous health problems, from walking pneumonia to heart failure, diabetes, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. He even spent 10 days in a coma, and countless others in the hospital. In an interview with NPR's Laura Sullivan, Womack recounted a health scare that landed him in the hospital after a show in Houston. Bobby recalled his doctor saying, "You know what? I've never seen a person as sick as you." There is no denying that his music career took a serious hit during these hard times.
Despite his struggles, Bobby's decision to take control of his health and his destiny helped him revive his career and his spirit. "I keep living life as it's dealt to me," he said. "I just decided to start afresh [one day] saying, `Okay, this is the NEW Bobby Womack...' And once I started to do that, my music came back!" He went to rehab and received medical treatment for his conditions — as of today he is no longer using cocaine and is happy to be living cancer-free.
In 2009, Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His legendary music has been featured on television and in films such as American Gangster and Jackie Brown. Womack is still expanding his musical reach by collaborating with artists such as Mos Def and Stevie Wonder and creating new albums. The Bravest Man in the Universe, a collaboration with Damon Albarn and Richard Russell, was released in June of 2012.
It is this creative spirit and ambition that continues to inspire others to pursue their craft, no matter what setbacks — diabetes related or otherwise — they experience in life.
1 – B&S Online. 2004. Bobby Womack: ‘Last Soul Man' B&S Classic Interview. http://www.bluesandsoul.com/feature/290/bobby_womack_last_soul_man_bands_cla... (Accessed 11/12/12).
2 – NPR.org. Bobby Womack: 'God Must Still Have A Purpose For Me.' http://m.npr.org/story/156010050 (Accessed 11/12/12).
3 – Soultracks. Bobby Womack Biography. http://www.soultracks.com/bobby_womack.htm (Accessed 11/12/12).
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