Harry Hippie: Bobby Womack's recollection of his brother tragic death
Bobby Womack CD cover
Harry Hippie is one of the best-known songs released by Bobby Womack who, throughout his sixty-year long career, has left a notable mark in the history of American music, specifically R&B, funk, rock, and jazz. Written in 1972, the track was conceived by songwriter Jim Ford as a tribute to the singer's brother Harry Womack.
Since childhood, Harry has been involved in the family group The Valentinos, also known as The Womack Brothers, primarily as a bassist and backing vocalist. His lifestyle and some of the details of his tragic death are reflected in the Harry Hippie lyrics.
Harry Womack was killed by his girlfriend in a fit of jealousy after she had found another woman's undergarments in his room. It happened at Bobby's house when he was on tour but had invited his brother to stay over and settle personal problems with his girlfriend. To give his brother a break, Bobby invited another bass performer on the road and did his best to establish Harry's peace of mind, but the drama was ignited by the ill-fated underwear belonging to Bobby's girlfriend.
Listen to Harry Hippie by Bobby Womack:
Compositionally, Harry Hippie complies with the canons of classical tonal theory, namely the Ionian mode. In the harmonic analysis of the song's chord chains, the scale degrees (denoted with Roman numerals) show the following progressions in the key of E major:
- E–C♯m–A–B or I–vi–IV–V for the verses
- E–G♯m–A–B or I–iii–IV–V for the verses
- E–B–A–F♯m or I–V–IV–ii for the verses
- C♯m–B–C♯m–B–A or vi–V–vi–V–IV for the refrains.
The I–vi–IV–V chord progression stems from classical music where it is heavily used to conclude musical sections and is rightly considered to be one of the strongest final musical cadences. Exactly the same chord chains are laid down in Led Zeppelin's D'yer Mak'er written in the key of C major and in The Beatles' I've Just Seen A Face composed in the key of A major analyzed in more detail in this article.
Discover more songs composed in Ionian major mode and check out their harmonic analysis in the following articles:
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- 9 Beatles songs that combine harmonic major with Ionian mode
- Sugaree: Jerry Garcia's song referencing his lyricist's criminal past
- Seven Seas of Rhye: song of imaginary land brought to life by Ionian and Mixolydian modes
- Tumbling Dice: hundred reels of tape for a messy Rolling Stones mix
- Marie Laveau: ballad of the legendary Voodoo Queen
- Hushabye: folk roots of famous rock and roll lullaby
- Coal Miner's Daughter was forced to remove a third of the lyrics from her autobiographical song
- I Wanna Be Sedated: pure classical harmony cementing the Ramones' hit in punk rock history
- Yakety Yak: teenager's answer to household chores in a hit song