Who's the Muse?
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.

 

The Valentinos - "Lookin' For A Love"
Bobby Womack - "Fly Me To The Moon"
Bobby Womack - "I'm Through Trying To Prove My Love"

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.

[Buy, Buy, Buy]

Posted by Jordan at December 28, 2011 9:34 PM
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