Bobby Womack: The Last Soulman
Blues & Soul Editor Lee Tyler kicks off a new era for this mighty 'magazine' with an interview with soul icon and legend Bobby Womack. After a decade plus on soul's sidelines, the superstar has recently marked his chart comeback applying his trademark vocals to tracks by groundbreaking band The Gorillaz. The glint is now back in the eye of this 67 year old as new material from the artist is rumoured to be firmly the horizon.
To begin any Bobby Womack interview you must first acknowledge this artist's place in music's history. A major/incisive cog, if you will, in that huge machine we call soul music. A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer, songwriter and guitarist who has worked with many leading contemporaries including Sly Stone, Wilson Picket and Sam Cooke - who would prove be extremely influential in the artist's life.
An artist who has done much to influence/set the bar to a certain extent, for all who follow in his wake. With a catalogue of work which has been written about, scrutinised, sampled, payed homage AND of course enjoyed over and over again - you may wonder what could be the next step?
So when I heard Damon Albarn had mentioned in interview that there was a chance of Bobby Womack producing some new solo material in the near future, as Albarn would go on to claim, due to his creative spark being apparently re-ignited while working directly with his groundbreaking band The Gorilliaz. I decided to find out if this rumour of a new body of Womack work was mere fantasy, as had been falsely/wishfully reported a few times previously, or was in fact true…
After catching up with Bobby on his recent whistle stop two date visit, the first question had to be about his reported illness and how was his sate of heath "Yeah I'm ok thanks Lee, I've been outside at a couple of festivals recently. It's been raining and I shouldn't even be there because I just had an operation. I just got off from having an operation for prostate Cancer and I'm not really allowed to walk too much. So when I came here to do these dates, it was before I even had the operation that the dates were fixed, and I said 'I'm now ready.'"
I had the album question already burning in my mind, so I was slightly relived to have it answered so early, and not answered once, but twice! "In fact, there are two albums! The first is called 'Living In The House of Blues' and this album is more Blues than anyone would ever know! When the first album comes out people get the message, then the second album things makes sense! My album has A LOT of dedication and understanding." With this revelation in hand it was Womack who steered the conversation away from the immediate 'Blues' release and onto it's follow-up, a more Womaticly soulfully infused release. "The other album is called 'The Best Is Yet To Come' and due next year, I'm just about to finish it. It has a lot of quality artist's like Ronald Isley, Teena Marie, Snoop Dog and Rod Stewart on - they call it the 'old skool.' But I wanted to show them what that means."
I ask Bobby again about his intended soul album 'The Best Is Yet To Come' and what can we expect from this gem. "It's going back to basic's - I think the thing that has changed in this business is there is more high-tech equipment, that will now cost me $100,000-$150,000 to cut an album. I can cut an album for $15,000 Dollars and you'd swear that is was cut in one of the high-tech studios. So I see the difference between quality and quantity and that will never change. You see a person driving in a Rose Royce would you take notice? If you see another person in a Rose Royce and they think they're better than anybody else I say 'it's not because it's a Rose Royce, it's because it's you!' You look like a fool behind the wheel if you act like one!! People drive a Rolls Royce, Rolls Royce don't drive them, that the big difference! That's when I see people pretending and pretending, and I say 'you ain't got shit when I met ya, you aint got shit now!' That's when I get people coming up to me saying 'yeah man, I can make you a star!' I say, 'I've been an old star.' I say, 'stars fall from the sky and when they hit the ground they turn into a rock! And a rock ain't no good unless you throw it at somebody!'"
So what does Bobby Womack now think of the genre that he had a hand in creating. "Soul music is dead! On the commercial side that is… But on the 'soul side' the last man is STILL standing. I'm not standing for me, I'm standing for people that made me and gave me a chance to be listened to. He continues, "so I say, 'I wonder why they picked me?' And I'm not bragging when I say 'the last soul man standing.' I say, they outta put that on a proper station, but there's no station that has enough respect for it! So when you go to someone and say, 'do you know who James Brown is?' He gonna say 'I like this record and this record, I got it from his greatest hits!?' So it is what it is!?
As the last soul man standing he has a few words for those who may doubt his musical mission "I can stand up for the people because of the position I'm in. That's why I'm still here, and as much as I've done after totally abusing my body, my voice is better and I ain't gonna retire!" And aren't we glad about that!
FOR MORE FROM INTERVIEW ACTION FROM BOBBY WOMACK ORDER YOUR COPY OF BLUES & SOUL'S RE-LAUNCH MAGAZINE.
You can expect two Bobby Womack album releases over the next few months, dates will be available soon.
Words LEE TYLER