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Story of Singer Bobby Womack's Betrayal

In the chronicles of music history, few stories are as fraught with controversy and emotional turmoil as the marriage between Bobby Womack and Barbara Cooke, widow of the legendary soul singer Sam Cooke. This tale is not just about a union between two individuals but also about the complex web of relationships within the music industry and the intense personal and public backlash that followed.

A Scandalous Beginning

The sequence of events leading to Bobby Womack and Barbara Cooke's marriage reads like a script from a Hollywood drama. Merely 77 days after the tragic death of Sam Cooke in December 1964, 20-year-old Bobby Womack and Barbara Cooke, who was ten years his senior, made headlines with their attempt to marry. The choice of Womack wearing one of Cooke's suits to the Los Angeles county courthouse was a detail that seemed to add insult to injury, fueling media frenzy and public outrage.


The initial rejection of their marriage application by the courthouse, citing Womack's age and lack of parental permission, was but a brief obstacle. They were finally married on March 5, 1965, just a day after Womack's 21st birthday. However, their union was far from a happy culmination. Instead, it marked the beginning of a period of ostracization for Womack within the soul music community.


Backlash and Isolation

The backlash was immediate and severe. Womack, once a respected musician and the former backing guitarist for Sam Cooke, found himself alienated in the industry he loved. His own brothers turned against him, as did his audiences and the disc jockeys who once played his records. The hostility wasn't limited to professional circles; Cooke's family, too, was enraged, leading to a violent confrontation where Cooke's brothers, Charles and David, physically assaulted Womack.


The scandal seemed to confirm the worst fears about the predatory nature of the music industry, where personal tragedies were overshadowed by opportunistic alliances. Womack's claim that his initial intention was to console Barbara, fearing she might harm herself, did little to quell the public and personal vendettas against him.

A Marriage Marred by Scandal

The marriage between Womack and Barbara was turbulent and marked by further scandal when, in 1970, Barbara discovered an affair between Womack and her daughter, Linda Cooke. The revelation led to a confrontation where Barbara shot at Womack, narrowly missing killing him. This incident precipitated the end of their marriage, with their divorce being finalized in 1971. The aftermath of the affair saw a permanent estrangement between Linda and her mother, adding another layer of tragedy to an already tumultuous family dynamic.


Reflections on a Tumultuous Chapter

The marriage of Bobby Womack and Barbara Cooke remains a dark chapter in the history of soul music, illustrating the complex interplay between personal lives and public personas. The events that unfolded did not just affect those directly involved but also painted a broader picture of the pressures, temptations, and pitfalls awaiting those in the limelight.


In retrospect, the Womack-Cooke saga serves as a cautionary tale about the consequences of actions taken in grief and turmoil, the destructive potential of scandal in the public eye, and the long-lasting impact of personal decisions on professional legacies. While both Bobby Womack and Barbara Cooke have since passed away, the lessons from their story remain relevant, serving as a somber reflection on the challenges faced by individuals navigating the treacherous waters of fame, love, and loss.

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