Robert Dwayne "Bobby" Womack (born March 4, 1944) is an American singer-songwriter and musician.
An active recording artist since the early 1960s where he started his career as the lead singer of his family musical group The Valentinos and as Sam Cooke's backing guitarist, Womack's career has spanned more than 40 years and has spanned a repertoire in the styles of R&B, soul, rock and roll, doo-wop, gospel, and country.
Taking after their gospel-singing father, Womack and his four brothers Friendly, Jr., Cecil, Harry and Curtis formed The Womack Brothers and began touring the gospel circuit. Signing with SAR Records, Cooke's own imprint, they eventually agreed to leave the gospel circuit for a career in secular music and the group was renamed as the Valentinos.
Shortly afterward, they scored their first charted single, "Lookin' For a Love," which peaked at #8 on the Billboard R&B chart. In 1964, they scored a second hit with "It's All Over Now." The latter song was written by Womack and would give the singer monetary royalties after The Rolling Stones' cover of "It's All Over Now" hit the top of the UK Singles Chart.
The Valentinos' career dwindled after the death of Cooke in December 1964. The group stayed together for a year and a half, before splitting up in 1966. They reformed in the late 1960s and recorded a few songs for Jubilee Records in the early 1970s, appearing on “Soul Train” in 1973. Womack struggled to get noticed in the music industry and secluded himself as a session musician.
As a session guitarist, Womack worked at record producer Chips Moman's American Studios in Memphis. Until this point, around 1967, he had had little success as a solo artist, but at American he began to record a string of hit singles, including 1968's "What Is This" (his first chart hit), "It's Gonna Rain," "More Than I Can Stand." a soul-infused cover of Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon" and his bluesy rendition of The Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'," which gave him his first Top 50 pop single.
During this period he became known as a songwriter, contributing many songs to Wilson Pickett's repertoire. These include "I'm in Love" and "I'm a Midnight Mover." He also applied guitar work on three of Aretha Franklin's hit-making late 1960s recordings, including “Lady Soul,” where he played guitar on Franklin's hit, "Chain of Fools."
Among his most well-known works as a session musician from this period, his appearance as guitarist on Sly & the Family Stone's 1971 album “There's a Riot Goin' On” and on Janis Joplin's “Pearl,” which features a song by Womack and poet Michael McClure entitled "Trust Me." In 1971, on an album with jazz guitarist Gábor Szabó, he introduced his song "Breezin'," which later became a hit for George Benson.
After moving to the United Artists label in 1971, he released the album “Communication,” scoring the hit "That's The Way I Feel About Cha," which became his first Top 40 single in 1972.
His follow-up album, “Understanding,” featured his original rendition of the single "I Can Understand It, "which later became a funk hit for the Detroit-based band New Birth, and the Top 10 R&B hit, "Harry Hippie," loosely based on Womack's late brother Harry, who died two years after the song was recorded. "Harry Hippie" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in Fenruary 1973. “Understanding” also yielded his first R&B #1 single with "A Woman's Gotta Have It," later to be covered by James Taylor in 1976, returning the favor of having Womack cover his seminal single, "Fire and Rain." In 1973, Womack wrote, produced and recorded the soundtrack album to “Across 110th Street,” with its title track becoming another successful hit for Womack.
In 1974, Womack reached the pinnacle of pop success when his remake of his old 1962 Valentinos single, "Lookin' for a Love" reached the Top 10 of the pop singles chart. Later hits included the funk singles "Check It Out" and "Daylight" and the single, "You're Welcome, Stop On By," later covered by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan. After 1976, few of Womack's songs hit the charts as he dealt with creative difficulties with his record labels. He left United Artists at the end of 1976, and fell out of favor with R&B audiences by the end of the 1970s.
In 1981, he made a comeback with the release of “The Poet,” which included his Top 10 R&B hit, "If You Think You're Lonely Now." Womack gained a sizable European fan base which grew with the release of 1984's “The Poet II,” which included the Top 10 R&B duet with Patti LaBelle titled "Love Has Finally Come at Last." In 1985, he scored his final Top 10 R&B single with "I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much."
In 1998, Womack performed George Gershwin's "Summertime" with The Roots for the Red Hot Organization's compilation album “Red Hot + Rhapsody,” a tribute to George Gershwin, which raised money for various charities devoted to increasing AIDS awareness and fighting the disease.
In 2010, Womack contributed lyrics and sang on "Stylo" alongside Mos Def, the first single from the third Gorillaz album, “Plastic Beach.” Womack was told to sing whatever was on his mind during the recording of "Stylo.” He also provides vocals on the song "Cloud of Unknowing" in addition to the song "Bobby in Phoenix" on their December 2010 release "The Fall."
In 2009, Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.