My Top 20 Songs of 2012 #18: Bobby Womack – ‘Please Forgive My Heart’

He was Sam Cooke’s protégé, who after Cooke was shot dead, controversially married his widow. He’s a songwriting genius, an extraordinary singer and fantastic guitarist. He’s a garrulous big mouth who recently called Mick Jagger an “asshole”, whom fame merely made “a bigger asshole”, therefore succinctly summing what it took Keith Richards several hundred (highly entertaining) pages to say in his autobiography. He was a massive crack addict; the Super Hans of soul. Now his career has been resurrected by Damon Albarn and Richard Russell, in a similar manner to the job performed by Jamie xx with Gil Scott-Heron.

The arrangements on his album are mostly fairly minimalist, which gave Womack’s now-grizzled voice the chance to grab the spotlight. Some of the record is undeniably great (Deep River, The Bravest Man In The Universe and If There Wasn’t Something There), some of the record doesn’t quite work (an ill-advised duet with Lana Del Rey, the upbeat, but oddly flat “Love Is Gonna Lift You Up”) and it’s sad that Womack isn’t able to play the guitar anymore. The track that worked best for me was “Please Forgive My Heart”.

It’s his best vocal on the record, starting off sounding weak and fragile, but building in strength as the song goes on. It seems to confront his mortality, but instead of descending into pity, Womack does it with a peremptory slammed fist. The vocal only reflects the lyric (and perhaps his personality), which lays bare his acknowledgment of his faults, whilst remaining recalcitrant: “Where did I lose control?/Where did it all begin?/Please forgive my heart/’Cos it’s not that the problem lies anywhere in there.”

If this record is anything to go by, there’s life in Bobby Womack yet. Let’s hope he doesn’t depart so soon after this record, as Scott-Heron did after his.

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