World News

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Soul man Bobby Womack dies aged 70

Published 28/06/2014|08:47

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Bobby Womack - seen performing with Gorillaz at London's O2 Arena - has died aged 70

Bobby Womack, the highly influential R&B singer-songwriter who inspired artists from the Rolling Stones to Damon Albarn, has died. He was 70.

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Womack's publicist Sonya Kolowrat said the singer died yesterday but had no other details to provide.

Womack was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease two years ago and dealt with a number of health issues, including prostate cancer.

He performed recently at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Tennessee and seemed in good health and spirits.

Womack caught the attention of the Stones in the 1960s and influenced many early rockers before fading from popular music for more than a decade.

Albarn and XL Recordings president Richard Russell helped Womack regain his career with 2012 comeback album The Bravest Man In The Universe.

The album was a departure for Womack, full of electronic music and beats. But it was lauded by critics for a simple reason: That distinctive voice of his still brought chills.

"I don't think he ever really thought that he would do anything again," Albarn said of Womack in March.

"Watching his rehabilitation and watching his ability to confront new material and new challenges was nothing short of miraculous at the time, and he still today continues to battle his demons and his illness. But he's a beautiful person and when he opens his mouth and that voice comes out, it is something that is somehow touched by God."

Despite addiction and multiple health issues, Womack pulled off a second act in his career, and seemed in good health and spirits at Bonnaroo. He had been scheduled to perform at multiple events across Europe in July and August.

He told the BBC last year that the Alzheimer's diagnosis came after he began having difficulty remembering his songs and the names of people he had worked with.

And there have been many. The soul singer cut a wide path through the music business as a performer and songwriter in a career that spanned seven decades. Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, long after he had lost his fortune and his career to addiction.

He spoke of kicking his substance abuse problems in a 2012 interview with The Associated Press and all the friends he had lost to drugs over the years.

"I think the biggest move for me was to get away from the drug scene," Womack said.

"It wasn't easy. It was hard because everybody I knew did drugs...They didn't know when to turn it off. So for me looking at Wilson Pickett, close friends of mine, Sly Stone, Jim Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and I can go on and on and on, and I say all of them died because of drugs."

According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website, Womack was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and sang gospel music at a young age, performing with his brothers in The Womack Brothers.

Under the influence of gospel and R&B legend Sam Cooke, who signed the group to his personal label, Womack moved into secular music.

In the early 1960s his group recorded It's All Over Now, which was covered by the Stones and became the band's first number-one hit.

His songs have been recorded by multiple artists, and he played as a session musician in Memphis in the 1960s.

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