I know Love Wars isn’t news to many. Linda and Cecil Womack were soul royalty–Linda is Sam Cooke’s daughter and has been an established song writer since she was 11; Cecil was a member of The Valentinos, a protégé of Sam Cooke, and former husband to Motown legend Mary Wells. Linda and Cecil met as children and together their families constructed one of the most confusing family trees of all time, full of death, cheating, scandal, and intermarriage. They were married in the late late 70s after the dissolution of Cecil’s marriage to Mary Wells, probably because of her extramarital affair with his brother Bobby.
By the time they put out their debut record as Womack and Womack, Linda and Cecil were seasoned musicians, and bravely turned their own marriage and turbulent family histories into the subject matter of an album that looks unflinchingly at the more painful aspects of relationships. Fittingly, Love Wars is a family affair: Linda and Cecil co-wrote all the songs (with the exception of a cover of The Rolling Stones’s “Angie”), with additional co-writing cameos from both of Cecil’s parents and his brother, Curtis. As the title suggests, the music is full of paradoxes: sunny, funk-flecked songs that belie their subject matter and their shrewd lyrics, which, as critics have been quick to note, are most incisive when they’re dealing with pain and loss rather than with love and happiness. They approach their emotions with effortless, raw musicianship, and you can hear how much fun they had doing it–music-making was clearly family counseling for the Womack clan. Standouts include the foot-stomping, gospel-tinged opener, “Love Wars,” the sinuous, relentlessly grooving “Baby I’m Scared Of You,” and a hushed, heart-wrenching take on “Love T.K.O.,” a song they wrote for David Oliver that was made famous by Teddy Pendergrass. By the time they arrive at rhe closer, “Good Times,” we can’t help but suspect that Linda is singing wistfully about good times that were probably not as good as she might have us believe, but that she’s still missing them just the same.