Who's the Muse?
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On December 11, 1964, Bertha Franklin, the manager of the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles, killed Sam Cooke. The official story, which remains controversial, is that Cooke broke into Franklin's office and, wearing nothing but one shoe and a sports coat, demanded to know where his female companion was. When Franklin told him that she had no idea, Cooke attacked her; in self-defense, Franklin shot the great singer dead. The music world mourned, with the possible exception of Cooke's protégé, Bobby Womack.
Three months after the shooting, Womack, then twenty years old, married his mentor's widow, Barbara Campbell, making himself a pariah in the R&B community and derailing his career. His detractors claimed that Womack was trying to capitalize on Cooke's legacy, to ascend to the soul king's vacated throne. It's true that Womack pursued not only Cooke's wife, but also his singing style, so it was probably a mistake, political, if not ethical, to wear one of Cooke's suits to the wedding, too. For his part, Womack said that he married Campbell to protect her; he felt that, left alone, "she would do something crazy."
Whichever story is true, Womack's formative romantic experiences were decidedly unromantic. This might come as a surprise to those familiar with the above trio of songs, recorded over a period including and just longer than Womack's seven-year marriage to Campbell and which, taken together, seem to describe the romantic development of a most sensitive soul. "Lookin' For Love", which Womack recorded with his teenage brothers, is a doo-wop account of all-consuming adolescent girl-craziness; "Fly Me To The Moon", his take on the pop standard, is the best musical mirror of the song's love-drunk lyric, while "I'm Through Trying to Prove My Love to You" captures the common love-hangover.
These are inspired love songs, but inspired by what? As is so often the case with Womack, nothing very specific is said about the woman or women these songs are supposed to be about. Instead, the lyrics focus on his subjective experience of love or, implicitly, on his love for the love song. In "Prove My Love to You", Womack sings, "See when you take my heart/I can't let you take my soul." It's mournful music, but Womack sounds unbroken; though the woman has left, he is not without love. He finds solace in something human relationships, however poisonous, cannot defile (soul music). And he sings the song just like Sam Cooke.Posted by Jordan at December 28, 2011 9:34 PM
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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.
Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.
Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.
Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.
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Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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our favourite blogs
(◊ means they write about music)
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A London Salmagundi
Words and Music ◊
Petites planétes ◊
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Silent Shout ◊
Clouds of Evil ◊
The Dolby Apposition ◊
Awesome Tapes from Africa ◊
Matana Roberts ◊
Pitchfork Reviews Reviews ◊
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Nicola Meighan ◊
CKUT Music ◊
Wattled Smoky Honeyeater ◊
The Clear-Minded Creative
Torture Garden ◊
Passion of the Weiss ◊
Juan and Only ◊
Then Play Long (Marcello Carlin) ◊
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
my love for you is a stampede of horses
It's Nice That
Song, by Toad ◊
The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross) ◊
My Daguerreotype Boyfriend
The Hood Internet ◊
things we like in Montreal
le pick up
au pied de cochon
vices & versa
+ paltoquet, cocoa locale, idée fixe, patati patata, the sparrow, pho tay ho, qin hua dumplings, caffé italia, hung phat banh mi, caffé san simeon, meu-meu, pho lien, romodos, patisserie guillaume, patisserie rhubarbe, kazu, lallouz, maison du nord, cuisine szechuan &c
drawn + quarterly
+ bottines &c
casa + sala + the hotel
blue skies turn black
montreal improv theatre
cinema du parc
yoga teacher Thea Metcalfe
The Morning News