Having crafted heart-warming, soul-churning and groundbreaking classics such as his album The Poet and the Across 110th Street soundtrack as well as stellar chart-topping records alongside Gorillaz collaborator Damon Albarn, Womack surprised the music world with the announcement of a new album, The Bravest Man in the Universe, after a 12-year absence.
Womack’s return was well-received, with critics praising his new music and building the anticipation for his new record. Unfortunately, the musician’s comeback was halted by his deteriorating health.
To the shock and dismay of music lovers the world over, Womack was diagnosed with cancer, alarming family, friends and fans. Scheduled concerts, shows and performances were put on the backburner as he underwent surgery.
Yesterday, it was revealed that the legendary soul man’s surgery was successful, rendering him cancer free. In a candid interview with Alexis Petridis of The Guardian, Womack discussed his health, his career and his new music.
Convalescing in a hospital following another health scare, Womack was in an effusive mood. He talks about everything, from Muhammad Ali to Martin Luther King and living in the projects.
He says of growing up in project housing, “They didn’t have no rats in the projects. I thought, boy, they get that for free?”
He goes on to express an aversion to stardom; “I don’t wanna be a star because 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 bust someone in the head with it.”
Womack tells a number of wonderful stories, featuring several starry names. He says of his time with Sam Cooke, “Sam used to tell me, whenever you got some money, you go get yourself a good ring and a good watch. Why would I need that? And Sam would say, you might have to get outta town quickly, before you get paid, and you can always hock that ring and that watch.”
Opening up about his new album and his relationship with Damon Albarn and XL Recordings head honcho, Richard Russell, Womack details: “I thought it was one of Damon’s friends. I didn’t know he was president of the record company.
“Never in my 50 years have I had the president of a record company come in and play with me. Normally, you got to fight them for every goddam song.”
“I didn’t understand a lot of things they were doing, to tell you the truth. I’d say: ‘Damn, what the fuck is that?’ They said: ‘That’s you! Took your voice, speeded it backwards.’ I would never have dreamed of doing stuff like that, but I wanted to related to the people today.
“Bad as I been, I can sing my ass off, better than I could before. Maybe it’s been preserved or something. If I can take control of my life from drugs, divorces, anything, I stand tall.”
“I’m speaking for all those singers who gave up. Marvin, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett: I can keep naming them until you say OK, I got enough. They need more respect than can ever be given to them. And I’m gonna set the record straight.”
As intriguing an interviewee Womack is, Petridis’ inviting style made the discussion even better, allowing the great performer to expound on any given topic. It really is an interesting read.
Visit Guardian.co.uk for a wonderful glimpse of ‘The Greatest Soul Singer In The World’.