Obituary: Bobby Womack / Songwriter and musician

March 4, 1944, - June 27, 2014

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Bobby Womack, a charismatic soul singer who played guitar for Sam Cooke and wrote the Rolling Stones hit “It’s All Over Now” and the enduringly popular “Across 110th Street,” and who turned a turbulent life into a resurgent career as a professional “soul survivor” from a bygone era, has died at 70.

His death June 27 was announced by Sonya Kolowrat, his publicist at XL Recordings. No other details of his death were provided.

Mr. Womack’s career transcended genre and era. A teen prodigy in gospel music, he became one of the most celebrated soul singers of his generation.

Besides “It’s All Over Now” (a career highlight) and “Across 110th Street” (which he co-wrote with J.J. Johnson, and which was featured on the soundtracks of the 1972 crime drama of the same name and Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 film “Jackie Brown"), his hits included “Lookin’ for a Love,” “Nobody Wants You When You’re Down and Out” and “Daylight.”

He was known for his “consciousness” raps, the philosophical sermons that introduced his songs and earned him the nicknames “The Poet” and “The Preacher.” Mr. Womack had once aspired to be a preacher, he said, because preachers got “the best part of the chicken.”

Mr. Womack endured personal tragedy and struggles, including the stabbing death of his brother Harris, the deaths of two sons, a controversial marriage to the widow of Sam Cooke months after Mr. Cooke was fatally shot in 1964, and periods of drug use.

He “drew on his religious upbringing and love of music, emerging as a survivor with even deeper messages to impart,” declared the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where Mr. Womack was inducted in 2009. He was “a music-business survivor, elder statesman and champion of old-school soul.”

Critics noted the gritty, sandpaper-like timbre of his voice. Mr. Womack said his singing style blended the smooth approach of Mr. Cooke, his mentor, with the raspier quality of Archie Brownlee, lead singer of the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, a gospel group that Mr. Womack had accompanied while in his teens.

Mr. Cooke discovered Mr. Womack as a youth, when he was singing in the family gospel group the Womack Brothers. Cooke recruited the young men to branch out from gospel and renamed them the Valentinos.

“It’s All Over Now,” which they recorded in 1964, became the Rolling Stones’ first hit in Britain.

At first upset that the Stones had recorded the song, “I was still screaming and hollering right up until I got my first royalty check,” Mr. Womack was quoted as saying. “Man, the amount of money rolling in shut me right up.”

While trying to establish a solo career and while facing the negative public reaction to his marriage to Mr. Cooke’s widow, Barbara, Mr. Womack worked as a session musician in Memphis and in Muscle Shoals, Ala. He accompanied such performers as Aretha Franklin and Joe Tex. For Wilson Pickett, he wrote such hits as “I’m a Midnight Mover” and “I’m in Love.”

Europe - Western Europe - United Kingdom - Stevie Wonder - Keith Richards - Jimi Hendrix - Mick Jagger - Patti LaBelle - Janis Joplin - Aretha Franklin - Marvin Gaye - Bobby Womack - Sam Cooke - Wilson Pickett - Otis Redding - Rod Stewart - Damon Albarn - Sly Stone - James Brown


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