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They say 'drop by' but I never do

FROM time to time in this job, you get to interview musicians some weeks ahead of their appearance at a concert here.

Occasionally they will ask if you are going to the show - which, invariably, you are. And sometimes they'll invite you to drop by and say hello beforehand.

It's always a really nice, touching gesture, one they make voluntarily. But I haven't dared take any of them up on it, because I would probably be star-struck and tongue-tied in their presence.

I always feared it would put them in mind of meeting someone on holiday abroad, sharing a few drinks and a meal then, on the last day, venturing the incautious invitation to 'look us up sometime', never dreaming that one day this would actually happen, the holiday acquaintance turning up unannounced on the doorstep with a bottle of wine, setting in train an evening of glassy smiles and uncomfortable silences.

Anyway, last January I had a midnight telephone interview with the Last Soul Man, the great Bobby Womack, whose Poet albums I had loved. Picking up the phone, he immediately began talking about his remarkable life and career, and about the legends he had been honoured to meet along the way. It was an age before he drew breath, by which time he had managed to answer most of my questions.

He said he was looking forward to his Celtic Connections date, then said: "I wish you'd do me a favour - when we perform, you come to the show." His right-hand man, Arthur, "is always at the door. Have him usher you in so I can talk to you."

In the event, I couldn't bring myself to take up Bobby's time at the Royal Concert Hall. I thought he would have enough on his plate: his agents and managers, sundry wellwishers and journalists, his pre-concert rituals. I thought someone like him really didn't need another distraction.

And now, of course, it's too late. Bobby died last week, aged 70. The heartfelt tributes recalled the greats he had worked with - Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, Sly Stone - his extraordinary life, his distinctive voice, his brilliant 2012 record, The Bravest Man in the Universe. "A passionate, reckless soul man to the end," said a US news magazine in tribute. That seems about right.

And now, of course, I wish I hadn't been so feckless that night, that I had introduced myself to Arthur, and had simply shaken Bobby by the hand and told him how much his music had meant to me over the years.

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