American soul music legend Bobby Womack has died at the age of 70, Rolling Stone reports.
A spokesperson from XL Recordings, the label representing the singer-songwriter, confirmed the death to the magazine on Friday.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Womack was raised in a musical home with his four brothers. They followed the footsteps of their gospel-singing father and formed an act called “The Womack Brothers.” They began touring shortly after.
While on tour, they met singer Sam Cooke and moved to California to chase their musical dreams.
Success came in 1964 after the Rolling Stones covered the group’s track “It’s All Over Now” – co-written by Womack – which catapulted the Stones to the top of the UK singles charts for the very first time. The critical acclaim eventually found its way to Womack and his brothers, who by that time had renamed their group, “The Valentinos.”
Womack began his solo venture after Cooke was shot and killed in December 1964.
His songwriting career soon took off. He went on to pen tracks for an array of high-profile artists including the smooth instrumental funk ballad “Breezin’” for George Benson and “Trust Me” for Janis Joplin.
In 1972, Womack wrote and performed the soundtrack to the cult blaxpoitation movie “Across 110th Street.” The collaboration with music composer J.J. Johnson produced an album praised by critics for its raw, edgy, and explosive sound that was able to capture the soul of a chaotic drug-addled 1970s Harlem.
The title track was later used by director Quentin Tarantino in the opening scene of “Jackie Brown.”
Womack was also known for his own drug problems, specifically with cocaine – a habit he says he picked up in the late 1960s but grew into a full-on addiction following the death of his infant son in 1976, according to his memoir “Midnight Mover.”
“I think the biggest move for me was to get away from the drug scene,” Womack told The Associated Press. “It wasn’t easy. It was hard because everybody I knew did drugs … They didn’t know when to turn it off … Sly Stone, Jim Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and I can go on and on and on, and I say all of them died because of drugs.”
On the heels of a comeback, he eventually released what has probably become the best-known single of his career, “If You Think You’re Lonely Now,” in 1981.
The song was a R&B hit. It climbed its way to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart – a noteworthy accomplishment in a time when mainstream music was deep into popular dance club hits. In 2005, the track’s hook and lyrics were sampled in Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together.”
From the 1970s to 1990s, 36 of Womack's singles made the charts. Over a career that spanned seven decades, he also collaborated with top soul and R&B acts including Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Dusty Springfield, and Lana Del Rey.
Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.
“It’s not bad yet but will get worse,” Womack told The Sun. “How can I not remember songs I wrote? It’s frustrating.”
Despite the cognitive problems he faced in light of his diagnosis, Womack released a highly-acclaimed 11-track album in 2012 titled, “The Bravest Man In The Universe.” It was his 27th and second-last studio album. A new posthumous album is expected to be released later this year.
The cause of Womack's death remains unknown.
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