Several years ago, while flipping through local radio stations, I came across a song that has a danceable beat, yet retains some Philly soul-like sound. The first half of the track involves a female singer crooning about how she was through with a man who pulls “rabbits out of his hat every day.” The next stanza uses magical and fairy-tale imagery to communicate how she wants to find a real man:
Houdini, Houdini, was great magician
He could crack a lock, oh yes he could
From any position
But my heart, is nothing like those locks
And your falling last of my brand of stock
Like little red riding hood, you‘re the fox
The song then segues into a dialogue, or battle of the sexes, between a Lothario and this same woman. He tries seduction: “Oh, Like Rudolph Valentino,/I can fall down on my knees/Pull flowers out my sleeve,” he tells her, but she remains unimpressed, stating “I can't understand that baby,” and “I need a little more.” In the end, the man grudging gives up, with the woman still trying to find her true love. This second section immediately grabbed and held my attention, and I began a mission to find that track, “Baby I'm Scared of You.” Due to its retro sound, I assumed that it dated from the mid-to-late 1970s. To my surprise, the song came from a 1983 album entitled Love Wars by Womack & Womack, and listening to the rest of the CD revealed a talented duo who never received the recognition they deserved.
The husband and wife team can trace their roots to soul royalty. Linda Cooke Womack, the daughter of legend Sam Cooke, began her songwriting career at age 11, eventually penning tracks for Wilson Pickett and future brother-in-law Bobby Womack. Cecil Womack embarked on his music career by performing with his brothers in The Valentinos. Cooke acted as their mentor until his untimely death, and Bobby later left the group to pursue a successful solo career. After marrying and divorcing former Supreme Mary Wells, Cecil reconnected with childhood friend Linda to become her husband and songwriting partner for Philadelphia International. Together they penned the Teddy Pendergrass classic “Love TKO,” Patti LaBelle's “Love Symphony,” and “I Just Want to Satisfy You” for the O'Jays.
In 1983 the couple released their debut album, Love Wars, under the name Womack & Womack. The duo demonstrates their versatility and soul lineage on several songs, including their version of “Love TKO.” Cecil's voice may not possess the raw sensual quality of Pendergrass', but he still communicates the lyrics' sexuality through his smooth but slightly gritty tenor. “APB” is a soulful Philly homage that issues an “all points bulletin” for find love. While “Love Wars” bears some 80s marks—synthesizer and electronic drum beats—the blending of Linda's and Cecil's voices greatly raises the track's quality.
Other than “Baby I'm Scared of You,” the other song best illustrating their collaboration is “Express Myself,” with Linda's strong, funky vocals intertwining with Cecil's old-school voice. Retro soul meets funk on the track, and the results are catchy. Her vocals also steal the spotlight on the mid-tempo “Woman,” where she fully expands on her feisty “Baby I'm Scared of You” character. Interestingly Womack & Womack end Love Wars with two Rolling Stones covers: “Angie” and “Good Times,” both of which the couple transform into emotional R&B classics. In particular, “Angie” allows Cecil to fully explore his range and power of his singing.
After its release, Love Wars enjoyed moderate chart success–”Baby I'm Scared of You” reached the UK charts, while the album hit number 34 on the US R&B charts. Subsequently the duo recorded four more albums under the Womack & Womack moniker—Radio M.U.S.C. Man, Star Bright, Conscience, and Family Spirit. In the early 1990s, Linda and Cecil relocated to Nigeria and changed their names to
Zeriiya (Linda) and Zekkariyas (Cecil), relating to the Afrocentricity movement, according to Soulwalking's biography. After recording their final album for the Warner Brothers label, the 1993 Transformed To The House Of Zekkariyas, the couple resumed writing tracks for other artists. In 2002 Linda and Cecil resumed their recording career with Sub Conscience, recorded with their seven children under the name House of Zekkariyas (see Soultracks' biography page for more information), followed by 2007's Circular Motion under the name Womack & Womack Project/Zek.
Despite these changes in names and sounds, Womack & Womack will always be known for their merging of old and new soul, which produced a different, organic sound for the synthesizer-heavy 1980s. “Baby I'm Scared of You” stands the test of time as not only a great dance track, but one that uses the “battle of the sexes” theme to great — and irresistible — advantage. While that song definitely stands out, do not neglect the smooth yet funky soul that pervades the underrated classic Love Wars.