Bobby Womack has been part of my life since I was 13 - when I first heard "I Can Understand It". I began to search for his other work and found the goldmine of UA/Minit sides that made his name. It was only later that I found that this was his second coming. He had been on the gospel circuit since his early teens with his brothers as the Valentinos, he had written "It's All Over Now" which I knew only from the Stones' cover. He had been a protege of the great Sam Cooke. He fell from public grace upon marrying Cooke's widow but later restarted his career from the ground up with sessions on guitar and writing for the likes of Aretha, Wilson Picket, and Sly Stone etc. His live shows brought him back - with versions of standards such as "Fly Me To The Moon". That brought me up to date. I was lucky enough to see him at Hammersmith in '76 performing those great songs "Harry Hippie" a tribute to his wayward brother, "That's The Way I Feel About Cha" and "Woman's Gotta Have It". This resurrection coincided with the world taking soul for more than the 3 minute pleading singles and his "Communicaton" and "Understanding" albums are outstanding examples of the development of soul following the 60's heyday.
He dabbled with drugs and his addiction pulled him down with later albums producing good works but always falling short (for me) of those classics. He got it together and cut two blinding albums in "The Poet" and the "Poet 2" these again showed that he sits alongside Stevie, Marvin, even in my opinion Otis. His secret was songs - he then touched a nerve by packaging and passionate delivery. This is the essence of what soul is to me. In 1987 with "Only Survivor" album again bringing him to the fore he toured and I returned to Hammersmith to see him in his element with an audience engaged in all that had gone before and what was current. At that gig he invited Paul Young onto the stage to perform his then hit version of Hall & Oates "Everytime You Go Away" - Bobby's parts blew him off the stage as the master showed his powers, substance over form on a song that he should have recorded.
My first conversations with my wife were about music, Bobby was heavily featured on the tapes I made her and remain the soundtrack to much of my life. I return to those songs constantly.
I'm wasn't overwhelmed with the Damon Albarn sponsored Gorillaz collaboration or the "Bravest Man" album that brought him back to public consciousness - but that has more to do with what I'm comparing it with (and perhaps that era can never be repeated) but i'm grateful he was able to have that last hurrah - The great thing for me was that I finally saw my hero getting the high profile that he deserved - Glastonbury, Later with Jools, awards, press and above all deserved recognition. I saw him one last time in 2011 at the Jazz Cafe where he performed three nights in a venue holding about 400. This was just before the "Bravest Man" album surfaced and he whilst frail he could still belt out a tune. He would repeat his "old soul" set at Glastonbury in 2013 to much acclaim. He continued on the festival circuit and up until two weeks ago was still active performing at Bonnaroo.
There will be many more detailed (and better) obituaries written within the next few days. For me he has gone but I have him as a continuing companion in the sides that will stay with me always. He was known as the Preacher, The Last Soul Man and the Poet. He was all that and more to me.
You will find a number of other posts with Pick n Mixed about Bobby Womack.