February 1, 2013 – Cecil Womack aka Zekuumba Zekkariyas was born on September 25th 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio. He and his brothers Bobby, Harry, Friendly and Curtis, began as a gospel group appearing on the gospel circuit in the mid 50s where they were seen by Sam Cooke of the Soul Stirrers. As Cooke’s protégés they changed their name to The Valentinos and in 1961 began to sing and record for secular audiences, producing hits such as “It’s All Over Now” and “Lookin’ for a Love”.
Cooke’s death at a L.A. motel in December 1964, had dramatic consequences for the Womack Brothers as SAR folded and Bobby Womack, who was now married to Sam Cooke’s widow, Barbara, left the group for a solo career. The Valentinos briefly disbanded before regrouping as a quartet in 1966, signing with Chess Records where they recorded the Northern Soul hit, “Sweeter than the Day Before”, written by Cecil Womack and Mary Wells. However, the group got dropped from Chess in 1968 after only two singles and Cecil Womack who had married former Motown artiste Mary Wells decided to leave the Valentinos.
The remaining trio of Harry, Curtis and Friendly Jr. signed with Jubilee Records where they recorded the Cecil-composed “Two Lovers History” and “Tired Of Being Nobody” before being dropped in 1970. Later in the 60s, Cecil concerntrated more on song writing and production. He provided his then wife, Mary Wells, with several chart successes including “The Doctor” released on Jubille Records.
His later songwriting credits include “Love TKO” a major hit for Teddy Pendergrass, “I Just Want To Satisfy You” for The O’Jays, “Love Symphony” for Patti LaBelle, and “New Day” for George Benson.
After Cecil divorced Mary Wells in 1977, he went on to marry Sam Cooke’s daughter Linda and they formed Womack and Womack.
In 1983, Cecil and Linda, began performing and recording together as Womack & Womack, and released a successful album, Love Wars on Elektra Records. The title track from the album was a no.14 hit in the UK, and the song “Baby I’m Scared Of You” was a minor hit on the Billboard R&B chart in the US. In 1988, their single “Teardrops”, taken from their fourth album Conscience, became a major international hit reportedly selling more than 10 million copies worldwide. It reached no.3 in the UK, and no.1 in the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand, though it did not chart in the US.
After traveling to Nigeria, they discovered ancestral ties to the Zekkariyas tribe, and Cecil adopted the name Zekkariyas. In 1993 they released their final album with a major label, Transformed To The House Of Zekkariyas. They continued to write for other artists, including Ruby Turner and Randy Crawford, and released their final album, Circular Motion, in 2007.
Zekuumba Zekkariyas spent his final years traveling the world with his wife and 7 children, and using his time to explore his African heritage, spirituality and knowledge of the continent as well as making music. He died of unknown causes in South Africa on February 1, 2013, at age 65.