Friday, October 28, 2022

Bobby Womack: My Story 1944–2014 by Bobby Womack and Robert Ashton

Maybe the best rock autobiography I’ve ever read
Soul and rock singer Bobby Womack first published his autobiography in 2006 under the title of Midnight Mover (named after one of his hit songs). Following his death, it was rereleased in 2014 as Bobby Womack: My Story 1944-2014. Womack may not be as famous as fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, or Pete Townshend, but his autobiography is better than theirs. In fact, this may be the best rock and roll autobiography I’ve ever read.

Womack was born in Cleveland. At the urging of his religious father, Bobby and his brothers grew up singing gospel. They achieved success first as the Womack Brothers and then as the Valentinos. As a teenager, Bobby came under the wing of soul singer Sam Cooke, who mentored his career as he branched out from gospel into the soul and rock genres. After Cooke was killed under questionable circumstances, Womack married Cooke’s widow Barbara, ten years his senior, when he was only 21. A few years later, Womack had an affair with his 17-year-old stepdaughter. When Barbara found out, it resulted in a violent and harrowing scene that serves as the book’s opening chapter. From page one, Womack’s narrative grabs the reader’s attention and never lets go.

Womack lived a hard life, enduring much tragedy and hardship, and as a result the book is not always a pleasant read. He tells his story with an unflinching honesty that is admirable and captivating. Womack owns up to his mistakes, even the dumb ones, without asking for sympathy, hiding behind excuses, or making himself out to be a better person than he is, unlike many other rock star autobiographers (Clapton and Townshend come to mind). Womack’s music career was up and down, interspersed with lean years, and he had his bouts with heavy drug use. He is brutally frank about sexual matters, without bragging. In fact, most of the stories in that category are humorous but not for the prudish. Womack displays an almost childlike attitude towards love, and at times comes across a little creepy with his stalkerish methods of pursuing the women he’s attracted to, but it was the 1970s after all. In the end he comes across as a likable guy and a battle-scarred survivor. Womack’s life story will make you laugh, might make you cry, and every once in a while may even give you the heebie jeebies. Regardless of what fame and fortune he achieved, you wouldn’t want to trade your life for his.

I’m a fan of Womack’s recordings, but I was unaware of the extent to which he wrote songs for others and worked as a hired-gun session man. He played guitar on Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds,” the Boxtops’ “The Letter,” and Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman.” The roster of legends with whom Womack worked also includes Jimi Hendrix, Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Sly Stone, Janis Joplin, and the Rolling Stones. Womack doesn’t just drop their names to make himself sound more important, nor does he simply dish out gossip and dirt. Rather, he has a way of telling stories about these famous acquaintances that really reveals their personalities and enlarges your understanding of each individual.

My Story is written in very conversational prose that allows you to imagine Womack relating these anecdotes to you personally. (He did have help from a ghost writer, Robert Ashton). Even if you’re not a big fan of Womack’s music, if you’re interested in ‘60s and ‘70s rock, including the stars mentioned above, this autobiography makes for a riveting read.
If you liked this review, please follow the link below to and give me a “helpful” vote. Thank you.

No comments:

Post a Comment