- For the British saxophonist also named Billy Paul, see the Wizzo Band.
Billy Paul in concert (2006)
|Birth name||Paul Williams|
December 1, 1934 |
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Billy Paul (born Paul Williams; December 1, 1934) is a Grammy Award winning American soul singer, most known for his 1972 number-one single, "Me and Mrs. Jones" as well as the 1973 album and single "War of the Gods" which blends his more conventional pop, soul and funk styles with electronic and psychedelic influences. He is usually identified by his diverse vocal style which ranges from mellow and soulful to low and raspy.
Life and career
Born and raised in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Paul began his singing career when he was aged twelve, appearing on local radio shows. Listening at home to his family's collection of 78s, Paul began developing a vocal style that would eventually incorporate traces of jazz, R&B and pop.
Paul attended Temple University, West Philadelphia Music School, and Granoff School of Music, for formal vocal training. Switching from rock music to soul to pop ballads, he soon became known through his performances on the underground musical circuit in Philadelphia. Paul's popularity grew and led to appearances in clubs and at college campuses nationally. This led to further opportunities, appearing in concert with Charlie Parker, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, Miles Davis, The Impressions, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Roberta Flack.
Paul formed a trio and cut his first record, "Why Am I" for Jubilee Records before being drafted into the Armed Services. After his discharge, he joined the New Dawn record label, and was a brief stand in for one of the Blue Notes with Harold Melvin. His first Philly album, Feeling Good at the Cadillac Club combined Billy Paul and Gamble/Huff produced songs, and was released on the Gamble label. This was followed by Ebony Woman, a more commercial release on Gamble & Huff's Neptune label.
Later, Going East, Paul's first album released on the Philadelphia International Records label, placed him into the mainstream arena. However, it was with his second album that he received both commercial and critical recognition, 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul, with the major hit, "Me and Mrs. Jones" being the most notable track.
"Me and Mrs. Jones" was a No. 1 hit for the last three weeks of 1972, selling two million copies (platinum single status), and went on to win Paul a Grammy Award. The gold album and platinum single broke the artist on world charts, including the United Kingdom where the single entered the Top 20 of the UK Singles Chart reaching number 12 in early 1973. In the years since then, the song has been covered numerous times, most notably by Freddie Jackson in 1992 and Michael Bublé in 2007.
In addition to receiving the Grammy, Paul has won several Ebby awards (given by the readers of Ebony Magazine); has been the recipient at the American Music Awards, the NAACP Image Award and numerous proclamations and keys to cities across the United States. He has also toured internationally in the UK, and Latin America.
Paul was on the Philadelphia International label for eight years and other noteworthy material included "Am I Black Enough For You?", "Let's Make a Baby", "Thanks for Saving My Life", "Let 'Em In", "Your Song" and "Bring the Family Back".
2009 saw the release of the biographical feature film Am I Black Enough for You?, directed by Swedish director Göran Hugo Olsson. Awarding the film three stars, Uncut magazine says "Olsson modelled his film on Let’s Get Lost, Bruce Weber’s 1989 portrait of Chet Baker, saying: "Paul is certainly no fallen demi-genius to set alongside Baker, but he proves an engaging, articulate subject, with a story that stretches back to playing alongside Charlie Parker, and peppered with the usual racial prejudice. His career is, in its way, emblematic of black America’s struggles over the last half century, including a descent into cocaine addiction and recovery, both shared with his wife, who remains a quirky, wilful presence throughout the movie. The pair come across as a jazzy Derby and Joan."
In 2011, Paul participated in an album by French singer Chimène Badi, recording a duet with her on the Motown song, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough".
- 1968 Feelin' Good at the Cadillac Club (Gamble Records SG 5002)
- 1970 Ebony Woman (Neptune NLPS 201)
- 1971 Going East (Philadelphia International KZ 30580)
- 1972 360 Degrees of Billy Paul (Philadelphia International KZ 31793)
- 1973 Ebony Woman (Philadelphia International KZ 32118 - reissue of Neptune NLPS 201 )
- 1973 Feelin' Good at the Cadillac Club (Philadelphia International KZ 32119 - reissue of Gamble SG 5002)
- 1973 War of the Gods (Philadelphia International KZ 32409)
- 1974 Live in Europe (Philadelphia International KZ 32952)
- 1975 Got My Head on Straight (Philadelphia International KZ 33157)
- 1975 When Love Is New] (Philadelphia International KZ 33843)
- 1976 Let 'Em In (Philadelphia International KZ 34389)
- 1977 Only the Strong Survive (Philadelphia International KZ 34923)
- 1979 First Class (Philadelphia International KZ 35756)
- 1980 Best of Billy Paul (Philadelphia International Z 2-36314)
- 1985 Lately (Total Experience TEL8-5711)
- 1988 Wide Open (Ichiban ICH 1025)
|Year||Single||Peak chart positions|
|"This Is Your Life"||—||—||—|
|"Me and Mrs. Jones"||1||1||—|
|1973||"Am I Black Enough For You"||79||29||—|
|"I Was Married"||—||—||—|
|1974||"Thanks for Saving My Life"||37||9||—|
|"Be Truthful to Me"||—||37||—|
|1975||"Billy's Back Home"||—||52||—|
|"July July July July"||—||—||—|
|1976||"How Good Is Your Game"||—||50||—|
|"I Trust You"||—||79||—|
|"Let's Make a Baby"||83||18||—|
|1977||"Everybody's Breaking Up"||—||—||—|
|"Let 'Em In"||—||91||—|
|"One Man's Junk"||—||—||—|
|1978||"Only the Strong Survive (song)"||—||68||—|
|"Don't Give Up on Us"||—||—||—|
|1979||"Bring the Family Back"||—||—||—|
|"You're My Sweetness"||—||69||—|
|"—" denotes the release failed to chart|
- 2009, Am I Black Enough for You? (Cert 12A), Director: Göran Hugo Olsson