I just heard the news that Bobby Womack passed away today at the age of 70. Womack started his career off as many Soul artists did, singing gospel music. His career had its ups and downs, hit singles and records as well as the substance abuse issues along the way.
I probably spend most of my music listening time listening to R&B Soul music because it reminds me of my childhood. When my friends first started listening to rap, I could sometimes tell them the name of the song that was sampled by the rap artist. As I got older and started buying my own music, I could also play back the original track for them to hear it for themselves.
Womack was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s as well as having fought cancer not too long ago. Even with that, Womack played at the Bonnaroo Music and Art Festival less than 2 weeks ago and had several tour dates scheduled throughout the summer. He will be missed, but he leaves behind a legacy too large to ignore. Rest in peace, bro.
Life don’t bug him ’cause he thinks he’s got it made
He never worry about nothin’ in particular
Oh he might even sell free press on sunsetI’d like to help a man when he’s down
But I can’t help him much
When he’s sleepin’ on the ground
He’s like a bottle in water
Harry just floats through life
Walks around all day long singin’ this song
[Update] 10:33 p.m.
I was reading an interview that was conducted with Bobby earlier this year, and he said something that I had never heard before up until now, and I think it’s something worth sharing. It goes to show how life changes moment by moment.
Janis Joplin, out of the blue I understand, called you up on the last day of her life. You had never met her before, is that right?
Had never met her before in my life. She called me up and said, “hey, this is Janis Joplin.” So, I started laughing and replied, “Yeah this is James Brown, what do you want?” Cuz, I didn’t thank Janis Joplin knew how to reach me. And she said, “Everybody is recording your songs. I just want to cut one of them. Can you come down and bring me a song?” I had just left doing something with The Pointer Sisters.
I went down to the studio and ended up giving Janis a song entitled Trust Me. But she listened to a bunch of tunes of mine after settling on that one. She would ring a bell as a played each song, signaling me to go on to the next one. I’m like, “Janis, that’s just the intro.” After she recorded Trust Me, we left the studio in my car and talked. I asked her what her biggest problem about the music business was. She said, “everybody thinks I’m trying to be Tina Turner.” I said, “I never heard that before in my life. Who is everybody? I think you are so original and different from Tina.”
I had recently been divorced from Barbara and had bought a brand new Mercedes 600. Janis had a Porsche. She said, “How did you pay for a car like this?” I said, “From people like you paying me for the songs I write.” She said, “boy, this is a beautiful car.” She was laughing and just on the spot started singing, “Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz, My friends all have Porsches, I must make amends…” She wanted to go back to the studio immediately to cut it. So we went back in the studio and I remember the producer Paul Rothchild saying, “Janis, can’t this wait until tomorrow?” She replied, “There might not be no tomorrow.” She got her way and we cut the tune. Afterwards I drove her to her hotel because she had consumed too much alcohol. At the hotel she confessed she was waiting for her heroin connection. I had some cocaine.
I offered her some but she said, “I don’t like to be up, I like to be down.” When the guy called up he asked her who was in the room. She said, “Womack.” He told her he wasn’t coming up unless I left, so I left. As I was getting on the elevator, I heard him coming up the steps. To this day I wonder who he was.
To be honest with you, I felt somebody selling heroin was totally different from someone selling cocaine. I was thinking how does this guy know me? I would never cop anything from him. For some reason, he must’ve felt I knew him. In the dope world you meet everybody. Maybe he thought I could point him out. I went on home and Paul Rothchild called me in the wee hours of the morning saying that Janis was dead. I think about Janis a lot. She had a hard life. She ran away from her past and tried to escape through music. She said she was mistreated and viewed as the ugliest girl at school. People only started giving her credit after she became Janis Joplin the singer.
That’s why you have to believe in what you do. People love you and think they know you for a lot of reasons. They don’t know you through a song. They were just touched by what you had to say. You don’t find out about yourself until later in life, if you’re able to live that long.
*Excerpt from Bobby Womack – Soul Survivor Talks Resurgence, Jamming With Dylan & Janis Joplin’s Last Night (Exclusive Interview) April 4, 2014 by Tee Watts