Bobby Womack: A Soul Icon Dreams Of L.A.

Monday's Pick

  • Song: "California Dreamin'"
  • Artist: Bobby Womack
  • CD: Bobby Womack: The Soul Years
  • Genre: Soul
Bobby Womack in 1987 (300)

Bobby Womack (seen here in 1987) calls himself the "last soul man," and his cover of "California Dreamin'" demonstrates that it's no exaggeration. Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive hide caption

itoggle caption Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive

Bobby Womack calls himself the "last soul man," and his 1968 version of The Mamas and the Papas' "California Dreamin'" demonstrates that it's no exaggeration. A highlight of the just-released retrospective CD Bobby Womack: The Soul Years, Womack's cover opens with familiar strummed guitar chords and those famously bleak first lines — "All the leaves are brown / and the sky is gray" — but the Cleveland native's rough-hewn voice adds a load of psychic pain absent from The Mamas and the Papas' jaunty original.

Backed by his own elegantly mournful guitar, the steady tap of a drummer, and insistent horns, Womack flavors the song with gospel shouts and ad-libs ("Somebody help me, I wanna go so badly"). And at the coda, he doesn't fade out, instead opting to invent a whole new song — picking up the pace, crying out "California Dreamin'," rising to a falsetto. It sounds like a hopeless cause, but he did make it there: A year later, he recorded a bopping "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."

Listen to yesterday's Song of the Day, and subscribe to the Song of the Day newsletter.

Purchase Featured Music

Best of Bobby Womack: The Soul Years

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
Best of Bobby Womack: The Soul Years
Artist
Bobby Womack
Label
Capitol/EMI
Released
2008

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.