BJ Thomas, the Grammy-winning singer who has hit pop, country and gospel music with hits like “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin ‘On My Head,” and “Hooked on a Feeling.” Charts was successful. died. He was 78.
Thomas, who announced in March that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, died of complications from the disease on Saturday at his home in Arlington, Texas, publicist Jeremy Westby said in a statement.
Billy Joe Thomas is from Hugo, Oklahoma and grew up in Houston. The breakthrough came in 1966 with a cover of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” in the gospel style of hits from all genres. In 1976 he reached # 1 for pop, adult and country listeners with? (Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song. ”That same year, his“ Home Where I Belong ”became one of the first Gospel albums awarded platinum for more than 1 million copies sold.
Dionne Warwick, who played in a duet with Thomas, sent a tweet on Saturday with her condolences.
“My condolences to the family of one of my favorite duet partners, BJ Thomas. I will miss him as I know many others will too. Rest in peace my friend, ”she said.
Thomas ‘signature recording was “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” a No. 1 pop hit and an Oscar winner for Best Original Song as part of the soundtrack to one of 1969’s greatest films, the irreverent western “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid. ”Thomas wasn’t the first choice for the bizarre ballad by Burt Bacharach and Hal David; Ray Stevens turned down the songwriters. But its warm, soulful tenor matched the carefree mood of the song, which is immortalized in the film in the scene in which Butch (Paul Newman) shows off his new bike Etta Place (Katharine Ross), the friend of the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford) has been.
“Raindrops” has since been heard everywhere from “The Simpsons” to “Forrest Gump” and was elected to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2013. But not everyone was satisfied at first. Thomas recovered from laryngitis while recording the soundtrack version, and his vocals are rougher than on the track released on its own. Redford, meanwhile, doubted that the song even belonged to “Butch Cassidy”.
“When the film was released, I was very critical _ how did the song fit into the film? It wasn’t raining, “Redford told USA Today in 2019. “It seemed like a stupid idea at the time. How wrong I was. “
Thomas later said that the “raindrop” phenomenon exacerbated a pill and alcohol addiction that went back to his teenage years when a Houston record producer suggested using amphetamines to maintain energy levels. He toured and recorded all the time, taking dozens of pills a day. In 1976, when? (Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song “hit # 1, he felt like” Number 1,000 “.
“I was at the bottom with my addictions and my problems,” he said in 2020 on the Debby Campbell Goodtime Show. He cited a “spiritual awakening” he shared with his wife, Gloria Richardson, who helped him get clean.
Thomas had few pop hits after the mid-1970s, but he continued to score in the country charts with number 1 songs like “Whatever Happened to Old-Fashioned Love” and “New Looks from an Old Lover”. He was also a top gospel and inspirational singer in the late 1970s and early 1980s, winning two Dove Awards and five Grammys, including a 1979 Grammy for Best Gospel Performance for “The Lord’s Prayer”.
Fans of the 1980s sitcom “Growing Pains” heard him sing the show’s theme song. He also starred in a handful of films including “Jory” and “Jake’s Corner” and toured often. Recent recordings include Living Room Music, with cameos by Lyle Lovett, Vince Gill and Richard Marx. He had planned to record in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in 2020, but the sessions have been postponed due to the pandemic.
Thomas married Richardson in 1968 and had three daughters: Paige, Nora and Erin. He and his wife worked on the memoir “In Tune: Finding How Good Life Can Be” in 1982. His book “Home Where I Belong” was published in 1978 and was co-written by Jerry B. Jenkins, who later became famous for the million-selling religious novels “Left Behind” written with Tim LaHaye.
In addition to music, Thomas loved baseball as a child and B.J. to name because so many of the Little League teammates were also called Billy Joe. As a teenager, he sang in church and joined a local rock band, Triumphs, with whom he stayed until his 20s. He enjoyed Ernest Tubbs, Hank Williams, and other country performers his parents liked, but on his own he was inspired by the soul and rhythm and blues singers he heard on the radio or saw on stage, in particular Jackie Wilson, whose hit ballad “To Be Beloved” Thomas later covered and adopted as a kind of guide for his life.
“I grew up in a pretty dysfunctional situation and had years of intense alcoholism and drug addiction, so the song has always been a touchstone for me. If you open up to drugs and alcohol at such a young age, you will have to deal with them for the rest of your life, ”he told the Huffington Post in 2014.
“What a roadblock, heartbreak and failure these addictions have caused me. But I had that little lightning bolt from that song. That is the essence of it all. To love and be loved. And that lasts a lifetime. It has always been an important part of my emotions. “