R&B singer and songwriter Cecil Womack passed away on Friday in Africa where he had moved in the 90’s with his wife and writing partner Linda Cooke. He was 65.
At a young age, Cecil started touring with his brothers Harry, Friendly, Curtis and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Bobby on the gospel circuit. The group was seen by Sam Cooke in 1956 while he was with the Soul Stirrers and they became his proteges.
When Cooke started his SAR Records label, he invited the Womack Brothers to record for him. Their two gospel singles failed to hit, so Cooke advised them to go in a more secular direction, changing their name to the Valentinos. In 1962, they had their first hit with Lookin’ For a Love (#8 R&B/#72 Pop) and followed with It’s All Over Now which was overshadowed when the Rolling Stones covered the song for their first U.S. hit.
Bobby Womack left the group in 1965 and, a year later, at the age of 19, Cecil married Motown star Mary Wells and went solo, preferring songwriting to recording. He wrote numerous songs for his wife including the 1968 single The Doctor along with managing her career until their divorce in 1977.
Cecil then married Linda Cooke, the daughter of Sam Cooke. At one time, Linda was Cecil’s step-niece after brother Bobby married Cooke’s widow just three months after his death. Linda already was a successful songwriter, co-writing Wilson Pickett’s I’m in Love and Bobby Womack’s A Woman’s Gotta Have It.
Together, the husband-wife team wrote such songs as Teddy Pendergrass’ smash Love T.K.O., Lead Me On, Good Man, Good Woman and Hold On. The duo also ventured into their own recording career as Womack and Womack with the 1983 album Love Wars. While they never managed a major hit in the U.S., the were very popular in Britain where they scored with Love Wars (1983/#14), Teardrops (1988/#3) and Celebrate the World (1989/#14).
In the 90’s, the couple became interested in their African routes and eventually moved permanently to Nigeria where they changed their names to Zeriiya (Linda) and Zekkariyas (Cecil). They continued to occasionally write and recorded an album in 2002 with their children as The House of Zekkariyas.
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