(CNN) — The raspy, gruff voice behind some of the most soulful songs of the past six decades is now gone. Legendary soul singer Bobby Womack died Friday, Womack’s publicist said. He was 70.
“I am sadly able to confirm but I have no details at this time,” said Sonya Kolowrat, his publicist with XL Recordings. Womack, whose career started before he was 10, wrote and performed hits such as “That’s the Way I feel About Cha” and “Across 110th Street.”
He also wrote The Rolling Stones’ first U.S. No. 1 hit, “It’s All Over Now.” Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. Last year, he revealed to BBC 6 music that he had early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. “With the support of many good doctors, my family, and all of my wonderful fans, I will continue to write and perform and bring the good music to the people for as long as I can,” Womack told CNN after his diagnosis. He thanked his fans for their prayers and well wishes, adding, “I truly appreciate and can feel your love.” Womack’s diagnosis came after several other health issues including pneumonia, diabetes, and colon cancer.
The evolution of a legend
Bobby Dwayne Womack was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1944. His father, a steelworker, also sang gospel — and young Bobby followed in his father’s musical footsteps.
“We came up very poor. My kids have had a much better life than I’d ever thought of livin’,” Womack said on his website.
By age 10, Womack and his four brothers — Friendly Jr., Cecil, Harry and Curtis — formed The Womack Brothers. They started touring the gospel circuit.
Then came an encounter that would change the course of the group. In 1953, The Womack Brothers met Soul Stirrers lead singer Sam Cooke.
After The Womack Brothers changed their name to the Valentinos, Cooke signed them to his SAR Records label, and the Valentinos’ success took off with the hit “Lookin’ for a Love.”
“Sam had charisma and a very special way to get into people’s hearts through his songs and his music,” Womack said in the book “Midnight Mover.”
“But Sam wasn’t just a singer, he was a leader, and he was getting ready to shake things up, to raise the consciousness of the world and stop prejudice.”
But in 1964, Cooke was shot to death at a Los Angeles motel. Four months later, Womack married Cooke’s widow.
That same year, The Rolling Stones covered Womack’s “It’s All Over Now” — and scored their first No. 1 hit in the United States. And Womack became rich.
He broke off into a solo career, which took off in 1967 with his first song “Trust Me.”
His song “Across 110th Street” became a hit in 1972 and rode a new wave of popularity in 1997 when it was featured in the opening credits of Quentin Tarantino’s film “Jackie Brown.”
Mourning an icon
Decades after The Rolling Stones made it big with Womack’s song, guitarist Ronnie Wood recalled his friend’s ability to captivate his audiences.
“I’m so sad to hear about my friend Bobby Womack — the man who could make you cry when he sang has brought tears to my eyes with his passing,” Wood tweeted.
“My heart goes out to his family & friends and everyone who loved his music. Bobby you will be greatly missed.”
Singer Darius Rucker also remembered Womack’s renowned baritone voice.
“To the great Bobby Womack. Rest In Peace u legend,” Rucker tweeted. “Heaven just got another great singer for its choir.”