Bobby Womack: A Soul Icon Dreams Of L.A. 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 a just-released retrospective CD, Womack's cover finds his rough-hewn voice adding a load of psychic pain absent from the jaunty original.
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California Dreamin'

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

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

California Dreamin'

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Monday's Pick

  • Song: "California Dreamin'"
  • Artist: Bobby Womack
  • CD: Bobby Womack: The Soul Years
  • Genre: Soul

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

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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."

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

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