Harry Womack

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Harry Womack
Birth name Harris Womack
Born (1945-06-25)June 25, 1945
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Died March 9, 1974(1974-03-09) (aged 28)
Los Angeles, USA
Genres Gospel, rhythm and blues, soul, rock and roll, doo-wop
Occupations Singer, musician, instrumentalist
Instruments Vocals, bass
Years active 1952–1974
Labels Pennant, SAR, Chess, Jubilee, Clean
Associated acts The Valentinos, Bobby Womack

Harris "Harry" Womack (June 25, 1945 – March 9, 1974) was an American singer and musician, most notable for his tenure as a member of the family R&B quintet, The Valentinos.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Harris "Harry" Womack grew up the fourth of five sons to Friendly and Naomi Womack in Cleveland's east side. Raised as Baptist, all five brothers began singing together when Harry was seven, forming The Womack Brothers. Like his brothers Bobby (1944–2014) and Cecil (1947–2013), Harry took up instruments, playing bass guitar before reaching his teenage years. Along with brothers Cecil and Curtis, Harry was a tenor vocalist while Bobby and Friendly, Jr. were baritones. In 1960, when he was fifteen, Sam Cooke signed the act to his SAR Records label, having told the brothers – and their father – that he was willing to work with them. Friendly Womack made Sam Cooke promise him that the brothers would continue to sing gospel and not what he referred to as "the devil's music".

Career[edit]

Following two gospel releases with SAR, Sam Cooke suggested the group change their sound and name. In 1962, Cooke renamed them The Valentinos and produced and arranged the group's first major hit, "Looking for a Love", which was led by Bobby. The record became a hit and landed them an opening spot on James Brown's Revue. Following several modestly successful R&B releases, the Valentinos' next hit, "It's All Over Now", was released in 1964. While successful on the R&B chart, the song became internationally successful after The Rolling Stones covered it.

Following Cooke's death at a L.A. motel in December 1964, SAR folded and Bobby Womack, now married to Sam Cooke's widow, Barbara, left the group for a solo career. The Valentinos briefly disbanded before regrouping as a quartet in 1966, signing with Chess Records where they recorded the Northern Soul hit, "Sweeter than the Day Before". However, the group got dropped from Chess after only two singles and Cecil Womack followed Bobby out of the group after he married Mary Wells. In 1968, the remaining trio of Harry, Curtis and Friendly Jr. signed with Jubilee Records where they recorded the Cecil-composed "Two Lovers History" before being dropped in 1970.

In 1971, Harry started accompanying brother Bobby after Bobby began his successful solo career after several years in limbo due to the scandal surrounding his marriage to Barbara Cooke, playing bass in his band. He and the other Valentinos and Cecil Womack contributed background vocals to Bobby's solo records starting with the 1970 release, My Prescription. Harry and the brothers were promptly featured in the background of Bobby's breakthrough hit, "That's the Way I Feel About Cha" as well as "Woman's Gotta Have It" from 1972. In late 1973, Harry and his brothers backed Bobby again on a remake of "Lookin' for a Love". Prior to that, the Valentinos emerged with a minor R&B hit of Bobby's "I Can Understand It", its success landing them a performing spot on the hit dance show, Soul Train.

Bobby later described his brother as "bohemian" and "carefree". Though it was assumed that Bobby's 1973 hit, "Harry Hippie", was about him, Bobby later said that it was just a song given to him by his collaborator and friend, country singer-songwriter Jim Ford. Nonetheless, during performances of the song, Harry would do dance numbers, which caused laughter among audience members and Bobby himself. Harry's last professional recording was singing background on Bobby's album, Lookin' for a Love Again, released in January 1974. The title track would find success for a third time after its release.

Death[edit]

Noting that Harry was going through personal problems with his girlfriend, Bobby advised Harry to stay at his home for a time while he went out on a promotional tour for his new album. On the night of March 9, 1974, Womack and his girlfriend at the time began arguing after the woman claimed she had found another woman's undergarments in a room Womack was occupying at his brother Bobby's house. Womack was stabbed to death by the girlfriend.[1] The undergarments later turned out to be from a girlfriend of Bobby's. He was 28 years old.

Friendly Womack, Jr., Bobby's and Harry's eldest brother, was the first to tell Bobby the news of Harry's death while Bobby was doing a radio interview. Bobby said he was devastated by the news. After burying him, he sent his parents to live close to them in Los Angeles just in case any of them would face similar tragedies. Though not written about him, Bobby to this day performs "Harry Hippie" as a tribute to Harry. A week after Harry's death, his last recording as a background vocalist, "Lookin' for a Love", reached number-one on the R&B chart and number ten on the pop chart, later selling two million copies.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Story Behind Harry Hippie". Retrieved 22 March 2013.