It’s the first song on my iPhone iTunes list; the one that shoots through the speakers in my car as I turn the ignition on.
Across 110th Street is a hell of a tester. I sing some of the words. I’ve never looked up the lyrics and the words rush together so that they swoosh over me the way water spills into a bath. It’s tricky keeping up with fast words you’re not sure of, so I hum, trying to catch on. There’s a beat to that song that I can’t stop from going through my feet.
I knew little about Bobby Womack until last week. Now he’s gone, there’s information about him everywhere. I read about Womack here and there, but the Rolling Stones Obituary for me is most comprehensive and telling. What a story. What I find most interesting (after I research all the mixed up stuff about him marrying Sam Cooke’s wife and then getting caught in bed with her daughter), is Sam Cooke‘s legacy song: A Change is Gonna Come. In 2009, on being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Womack remembered Sam Cook’s civil rights anthem, saying to his dead friend of Barack Obama: “Sam, we have our first black president”.
Before today, when I played Across 110th Street I thought of Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. For me, the song clicks into my memory of the movie. Now I will bring much more to my listening of the song.
Like the below anecdote:
As a child, Womack was not allowed to touch his dad’s guitar. But he still taught himself to play it. Gavin Edwards writes: “When he broke a string one day, he was young enough to think that he might be able to conceal the damage by fixing it with his shoelace. When his father came home from working at the steel mill and discovered what had happened, he prepared to beat Bobby — but then told him that if he could play well enough, he would let it slide. Womack remembered, “Even with one string short, I played classical music, soul, country and western and rock & roll. I played my ass off…”
And the following, from Ben Greenman, as a starting place for anyone wanting to listen to more from Bobby:
“There’s no way to do justice to a sixty-year career in a single post, except by urging everyone to go back to the beginning. Start with ‘Lookin’ for a Love’ and go forward from there, song by song. You will pass these two along the way: Womack’s cover of James Taylor’s ‘Fire and Rain’ and the title song to his 1971 album ‘Communication.’”