As some of you may know I will be 50 later this year. Sam Cooke died more than a half century ago, the year before I was born. Shortly before he died he recorded A Change Is Gonna Come. I am not sure if Bobby Womack played on the single but he talked about it last night.
It came about halfway through the concert and he had already done Harry Hippy and Across 100th Street. There was a slight worry that he was going to run through the hits and leave the stage after half an hour with the audience pleased that he had done some of the songs they had come for but still wanting more. But it went on for longer than that and the turning point was when he started to sing about Marvin Gaye and the band moved into one of those bits from What’s Going On where there is not much more than a saxophone and Marvin’s voice sighing to the heavens and Bobby Womack got it just right and it was a heartstopping moment.
It was after that he started to talk about Sam Cooke and playing guitar with him and then he started to sing A Change Is Gonna Come and suddenly we were hard up against those fifty years and all they contained and the history bound up with the song and at the same time we were watching a 69 year old man on stage singing as if he was half his age but held back by the frailties of his age but in full knowledge of all those other changes to come.
The concert took a change after that. All through there had been an aide who had stood at the back of the stage and occasionally moved forward to pass on some water or make sure there was a stool for Bobby Womack to sit on. At first it felt like a slight James Brown gesture but as the concert went on it became clear that he was hardly able to stand until he was being supported by one of the backing singers, his daughter, and the aide. But still he would not stop singing as if through sheer force of will he could keep the voice going.
He was carried off stage still singing and the audience was shouting for more and so he forced himself out again still carried on the shoulders of his helpers. He stood to the side of the stage in front us singing an old gospel song until spent again he was helped off the stage. The band clapped themselves off the stage.
The house lights went on and people started to edge out to the exits and we started to shuffle out of our seats. As we did so the voice came out again. He didn’t make it back onto the stage but we could just about see his black cap at one of the doors by the side. Somehow he was still propped up and the voice was as powerful as it had been at the start. The band came back on unsure of what was going on but plugging in away and they started to play with him until the song was done.
An extraordinary night.
A few years ago I read a book about Sam Cooke called Dream Boogie: The Triumoh of Sam Cooke by Peter Guralnick. It was a great book and it made me re-visit the live LP I was given some years ago Live at the Harlem Square Club 1963. One of the great live albums. It is easy to pocket Sam Cooke into the deceptively light pop of his singles like Wonderful World or You Send Me but on the live album you can see where Rod Stewart got it all from. There is something lascivious and insistent about the music and the immediacy between the singer and his audience.
At the end of the book I got to thinking that Peter Guralnick should next be writing about Bobby Womack.
Bobby Womack features heavily in the life of Sam Cooke. The band he was in with his brothers The Valentinos were mentored and produced by Sam Cooke and they released their first records on his label. Bobby Womack married Sam Cooke’s widow. Not only is he one of the few living connections with the people who sang then but over the years he has written songs for and had connections with some of the very best music.
He is playing in Liverpool tonight so much of the day so far has been spent doing homework and listening through all the CDs and albums I have. So far that has been about 4 hours of solid Bobby Womack.
In between I have made a chicken curry to eat before go out and been for a walk round the garden to see what is coming up. There is some tidying up to do outside but it has been wet and windy so it will have to wait for another weekend. The garlic I planted last year in September is coming up well and there are still some beetroots that need eating up. As always there is a glut of cavolo nero. I will need to look up some recipes to use it all up.
Last night we ate a seafood pasta sauce with feta cheese. I had bought a couple of large bags of good pasta the previous week and one of them still needed eating. There were a reduced number of children in the house and the one that we were left with was happy to eat whatever was put in front of him.
I had been to Wards in morning and bought eight large un-peeled prawns, a handful of monkfish cheeks and and a large red mullet which they filleted for me.
That evening I put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta.
As that heated up I dealt with the prawns. This meant peeling them and taking off the heads. I then heated up some olive oil in a small pan and threw in the prawns’ heads and shells. I used a wooden spoon to press down on the heads to squeeze out whatever was in there. As they turned pink and started to seethe I pour a glass of white wine in and let it cook down for a while until I was left with a thick, intense red sauce at the bottom of the pan.
The rest of the dish was done as the pasta cooked.
I started by warming some olive oil in a large frying pan. I threw in garlic and a few thin slices of chilli. As the garlic started to take on some colour the prawns went in. As they turned from grey to pink the monkfish cheeks went and then a handful of halfed cherry tomatoes. That was all stirred round and left to cook for a couple of minutes.
The red mullet went in then cut up into good sized chunks. Once the red mullet was in I had to stir more carefully so as not to break the fish up. There was half a tub of double cream in the back of the fridge and I poured that into the pan and poured in the liquor from the pan with the prawns shells.
The pasta was almost done now but before draining it I pushed some small nuggets of feta cheese down amongst the pieces of fish and added salt and plenty of pepper and a handful of chopped dill.
The pasta was ready and I drained in and then returned it to its pan. Half the sea food sauce was then stirred into the pasta with more pieces of feta.
It all then went into a serving bowl with the rest of the sauce on top and a final sprinkling of chopped dill.
We were running our fingers the bowl to finish off the sauce at then end of the meal.
After that we sat down and watched Jamón, Jamón.
It has been a strange day today. Out shopping this morning the sky was blue and clear and it was warm in the sun as I walked through Birkenhead to pick up some fish from Wards. Back over lunch the sky turned grey and dirty and then black for a ten minute burst of torrential rain and hail which seemed to hurl itself against the windows in the kitchen and it came down so thick for a while you could hardly see through.
Lunch was the remains of some pork I cooked for myself last night. The recipe came from one of the Moro cookbooks.
A pork fillet sliced, and then each piece flattened and marinaded in garlic, oil, sweet red wine vinegar and some paprika. In the meantime I cooked some chunks of onion (sliced across the grain) and fennel until they had softened and started to brown at the edges.
The onion and fennel were taken out of the pan, the heat turned up whilst I flash fried the pieces of pork. As they cooked I stirred the onions back in and poured a glass of white wine over the lot and let it cook through for a few minutes.
I ate it with some small pieces of potato that had been roasted in pig fat. One of the girls said how pretty it all looked on the plate.
This afternoon I took a look at the sea over the sea wall in Moreton. It was high tide and the water was up to the base of the wall, waves being whipped up and the wind so fierce it almost blew off my glasses.
Sat here now listening to an old LP of Richard Burton reading the poems of Dylan Thomas. Needless to say the kids are complaining!