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.