The Real Story Behind Bobby Womack’s Legendary Song ‘Harry Hippie’

The Real Story Behind Bobby Womack’s Legendary Song ‘Harry Hippie’

Harry Hippie

The Real Story Behind Bobby Womack’s Legendary Song ‘Harry Hippie’ Photo: FILE - In this April 4, 2009 file photo, soul singer Bobby Womack speak in the backstage after Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

“Harry Hippie lies asleep in the shade Life don’t bug him cause he thinks he’s got it made He never worry about nothin’ in particular Harry just floats through life…”

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These are the lyrics of the song “Harry Hippie” sung by the late legendary singer Bobby Womack on his 1972 “Understanding” album. The song became a Top 10 rhythm and blues hit. Many assumed Bobby Womack sang the song about a homeless man named Harry as a dedication to his brother, Harry Womack. Harry died on March 9, 1974, stabbed to death with a steak knife during an argument with a girlfriend, Patricia Wilson.

There’s conflicting information about whether or not the song was written for or about Harry. What is known is that “Harry Hippie” was written by country singer-songwriter Jim Ford, who himself recorded it in 1970 before giving it to his friend and collaborator Bobby Womack. Bobby released it two years later.

Bobby Womack spoke about the song with author Marc Taylor for the 1996 book, “A Touch Of Classic Soul, Soul Singers Of The Early 1970s.”

He described his brother Harry as a “bohemian” and “carefree.” Bobby told Taylor that Harry “lived a very carefree life. As a child, he always said he wanted to live on an Indian reservation. We used to joke about it, but when we got older he was the same way…We used to laugh and joke about the song when I’d sing it. When he was brutally killed in my home, it was by a jealous girlfriend … At that time, ‘Harry Hippie’ wasn’t a joke anymore; I had lost a brother. I still do that song in his honor today.”

Bobby Womack died in 2014.

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Like Bobby, Harris “Harry” Womack was a singer. In fact, they both got their start with the group The Womack Brothers, featuring all five Womack brothers.

When Harry was 15, music legend Sam Cooke signed The Womack Brothers to his SAR Records label. At first, they performed Gospel but after a name change to The Valentinos, they started performing R&B. They had their first major hit, “Looking for a Love,” in 1962. 

In the late 1960s, Bobby left the group. By 1970 the group had disbanded and Harry started touring with Bobby.

Harry’s last professional recording was singing background (tenor) on Bobby’s album, Lookin’ for a Love Again, released in January 1974. 

Although “Harry Hippie” was not written about his brother, Bobby often performed the song as a tribute to Harry.