Bobby Womack, the colorful and highly influential R&B singer/songwriter revered by artists ranging from the Rolling Stones to Damon Albarn, has died. He was 70.
Womack was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease two years ago and dealt with a number of health issues, including prostate cancer. He performed two weeks ago at Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., and seemed in good health and spirits.
His publicist, Sonya Kolowrat, confirmed Friday that the singer had died but provided no other details.
“I know God is in the blessing business because I’m not supposed to be here,” Womack told USA TODAY in July 2012, nearly 20 years after beating a cocaine addiction. “There’s still a lot for me to do, and if I can sing some great music and make people happy, I’ve got the best gig in the world.”
Albarn, founder of the virtual band Gorillaz, and XL Recordings president Richard Russell helped Womack regain his career with 2012 comeback album The Bravest Man in the Universe, his first in 18 years.
He had shunned the music business for years. “If I walked into a restaurant and saw somebody that looked like a musician, I would walk back out. They were either going to turn me back onto drugs or they were going to ask what I was doing, and I would have to lie.”
Womack intended to make the most of his fresh start.
“This is a new Womack,” he promised. “The best you’ve ever seen. I survived the storm.”
The Cleveland native was the third brother of five born to a Baptist church organist and a minister/musician. Bobby’s father, Friendly Womack, was surprised by the boy’s guitar-playing talent and the musical skills of his other sons, and they eventually began performing as the Womack Brothers.
The siblings were discovered in 1956 by Sam Cooke, who signed them to his SAR Records label four years later when Womack was 16. They changed their name to The Valentinos and had their first hit, Lookin’ for a Love (Womack would re-record it a dozen years later), in 1962. Two years later, the group’s next hit It’s All Over Nowproved a turning point for the budding songwriter.
At Cooke’s urging, he reluctantly let a little-known British band, the Rolling Stones, record the song, even though it would mean The Valentinos’ version would fade out.
“I know we outsang them on the song,” Womack told USA TODAY. “But when I saw the check, I was happy. I said, ‘Let me shut my mouth.’ It still takes care of me today. That’s when I said, ‘I’m going to be a songwriter.’ ”
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SOURCE: USA Today