Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lookin' for a Love, Bobby Womack (1974)

I'm lookin' here and there ... I'm searchin' everywhere ... and I'm lookin' ... I'm lookin' ... I'm lookin' ... I'm lookin' ...

I have been trying valiantly to identify one song from 1974 - any song - that I could say I really liked. Something was in the water that year and nothing at all from the playlists looks good to me.

I had only to look locally - Bobby Womack's interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air a week ago reminded me of the seductive gospelesque rhythms and vocals of Lookin' for A Love which, as luck would have it, was released in 1974! The Womack family was from Cleveland and caught the eye of Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers when the brothers were singing gospel in church under the watchful eye of their father.

Lookin' for a Love was originally released in 1962 by the brothers, who by that time were named the Valentinos, recording for Cooke's label and touring with James Brown. (The song was also recorded and released by the J Geils Band before Womack re-released it in 1974, a version completely devoid of soul.)

When Womack was 15, he and his sister-in-law Shirley wrote and the Valentinos recorded It's All Over Now, later to be covered by the Rolling Stones in a much more well known version that launched their career. In his interview with Gross, he makes no secret of his disdain for the fact that, in those days, it generally took white recording artists to ignite the creative output of black artists as far as the commercial marketplace was concerned.

So when informed that the Stones were interested in recording the song, having heard an advance copy, he described his reaction: they should "get their own song." He came to be convinced, by Cooke himself, that allowing the cover to go forward - and beat his version to the charts - would be a good career move from a royalty perspective. He still emphasizes in the interview, however, that "Mick Jagger can't out-sing me!". Tell it, Bobby!

The left-handed Womack's many talents include playing guitar upside down, and the wah-wah line in Sly & the Family Stone's It's A Family Affair is his. I realize that I don't know as much about this multi-talented artist as I should; the fact that Cooke hand-picked him to play guitar in his band and for all intents and purposes made Womack his protege until his violent death in 1964 was all new to me. I'm going to check out the recent CD compilation, The Best of Bobby Womack: The Soul Years, to see what I've missed.


karmasartre said...

Very nice: Mr. Womack does it justice, and as you say, the Geils version doesn't. But the Valentino's version just grabbed me as a teen and hasn't let go. Still have my 45. I love the combination of looseness and cohesiveness. Great song, thanks for reminding me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. Bobby was there with Sly during some crazy times and it resulted in some great music. I write about this and more in my book Sly: the Lives of Sylvester Stewart and Sly Stone. I hope you'll check it out.