Legendary Soul Singer Bobby Womack Dies at 70

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 28 2014 10:44 AM

Legendary Soul Singer Bobby Womack Dies at 70

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Bobby Womack performs at the Roskilde festival on July 5, 2013

Photo by KASPER PALSNOV/AFP/Getty Images

Bobby Womack, an iconic figure from the soul music era who influenced the likes of Rolling Stones and Damon Albarn, died Friday night. Womack, known as the preacher for the way he introduced songs with long speeches, was not just known for his incomparable voice, he was also a strong guitarist and songwriter with hits that influenced a generation of rock and R&B stars. Although he was never as famous as the likes of Al Green or Marvin Gaye, “pop stars of his time considered Mr. Womack royalty,” notes the New York Times. “His admirers included Keith Richards, Rod Stewart and Stevie Wonder, all of whom acknowledged their debt with guest performances on albums he made in his later years.”

Although Womack had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease two years ago, his death still came as a surprise considering he appeared to be in good health when he performed at the Bonaroo Music & Arts Festival earlier this month, notes the Associated Press. Womack struggled with drug addiction through most of the 1980s. But he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 and then began a “career renaissance” with the 2012 release of The Bravest Man in the Universe, his first album in more than a decade, points out Rolling Stone.

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Womack’s “songs and his voice have been so much a part of the fabric of so many musical lives,” said musician Peter Gabriel. “In recent years, it was great to see Richard Russell and Damon Albarn bringing his music back into our attention. He was a soul legend. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends at this time.”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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