Bobby Womack first began singing in the 1950s along with his brothers in a gospel group and later in an ensemble known as The Valentinos. He gained prominence after Sam Cooke signed the group to his SAR Records in 1960.
When Sam Cooke was shot dead in December 1964, Bobby married his widow, Barbara, which was considered a scandal by some in the music business. His brothers turned against him – as did many disc jockeys – and Womack found himself ostracised in the soul music world. Womack and Barbara were divorced in 1971.
After establishing himself as a successful solo artist in the 1970s with such chart-topping hits as Woman’s Gotta Have It and Lookin’ For A Love early in the decade, he suffered drug-related problems, the death of his infant son, record label changes, and a variety of odd career choices (notably his disappointing venture into country music, BW Goes C&W).
Leaving Arista for the small independent label Beverly Glen, Womack was in dire need of a comeback – and that is exactly what he found with his album The Poet (1981). The album cover, which shows Womack looking late-1970s cool in an all-lavender outfit, was the perfect introduction for what remains one of the slickest batches of soul songs of the era.
The deep tenor vocalist sounds as sexy as Wilson Pickett – who recorded several of Womack’s tunes – on the celebratory opener So Many Sides Of You and then slips on the silk pyjamas for some Barry White-style action on Lay Your Lovin’ On Me. The slow jam grows even more sensual with Just My Imagination and turns into a Sly Stone-style party on the funk-rich Stand Up.
Womack’s gospel roots sink deeper as the album draws to a close with If You Think You’re Lonely Now and Where Do We Go From Here.
The Poet was a smash that brought Womack back to the top of the R&B album charts and yielded three hit singles, the biggest of which – If You Think You’re Lonely Now – went to #3 in the United States.
Bobby Womack died on Friday 27 June 2014. He was 70.