B. J. Thomas

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B. J. Thomas
Thomas in 1972
Thomas in 1972
Background information
Birth nameBilly Joe Thomas
Born(1942-08-07)August 7, 1942
Hugo, Oklahoma, U.S.
OriginHouston, Texas, U.S.
DiedMay 29, 2021(2021-05-29) (aged 78)
Arlington, Texas, U.S.
GenresCountry, pop, contemporary Christian, rock
Occupation(s)Singer
InstrumentsVocals
Years active1966–2021
LabelsScepter, Myrrh, Columbia, ABC, Paramount, MCA
Websitebjthomas.com

Billy Joe Thomas[1] (August 7, 1942 – May 29, 2021) was an American singer widely known for his pop, country, and Christian hits of the 1960s and 1970s. He made popular recordings of "Hooked on a Feeling" (1968), "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" (1969), and "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song" (1975).[2]

Early life[edit]

Thomas was born in Hugo, Oklahoma, on August 7, 1942, the son of Geneva and Vernon Thomas.[3][4] He grew up in and around Houston, Texas, graduating from Lamar Consolidated High School in Rosenberg. Before his solo career, he sang in a church choir as a teenager, then joined the musical group The Triumphs[5] with Tim Griffith (lead guitar), Tom Griffith (bass), Denver "Zeke" Zatyka (keyboards), Don Drachenberg (vocal and sax), and Ted Mensik (drums). During his senior year, he made friends with Roy Head of Roy Head and The Traits. The Traits and the Triumphs held several Battle of the Bands events in the early 1960s.

Career[edit]

In 1966, Thomas and the Triumphs released the album I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (Pacemaker Records), featuring a hit cover of the Hank Williams song "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry". The single sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc.[6] The follow-up single, "Mama", peaked at No. 22. In the same year, Thomas released a solo album of the same title on the Scepter Records label.

Thomas came back to achieve mainstream success again in 1968, first with "The Eyes of a New York Woman", then five months later with the much bigger "Hooked on a Feeling", which featured the sound of Reggie Young's electric sitar and was first released on the album On My Way (Scepter Records). "Hooked on a Feeling" became Thomas' second million-selling record.[6] A year later, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid featured Thomas performing the Bacharach/David song "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head", which won the Academy Award for best original song that year and hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1970. Its sales also exceeded one million copies, with Thomas being awarded his third gold record.[6] The song was also released on an album of the same title. His other hits of the 1970s included "Everybody's Out of Town", "I Just Can't Help Believing" (No. 9 in 1970, covered by Elvis Presley), "No Love at All", "Mighty Clouds of Joy", and "Rock and Roll Lullaby".

"Thomas never turned rock and roller because he was, and is, a country singer. And like most, he does better with the real stuff—'No Love at All' comes close for a pop song and he broke with a Hank Williams cover—than with Bacharach/David."

Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981)[7]

Thomas' earlier hits were with Scepter Records, his label for six years. He left Scepter Records in 1972 and spent a short period, in 1973 and 1974, with Paramount Records, during which time he released two albums, Songs (1973) and Longhorns & Londonbridges (1974).

In 1975, Thomas released the album Reunion on ABC Records, which had absorbed the Paramount label; it contained "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song" (the longest-titled No. 1 hit ever on the Hot 100). It was Thomas' first big hit since 1972 and secured him his fourth gold record.[6]

In 1976, Thomas released Home Where I Belong, produced by Chris Christian on Myrrh Records, the first of several gospel albums. It was the first Christian album to go platinum, and Thomas became the biggest contemporary Christian musical artist of the period.[8] Thomas embraced his newfound faith, but sometimes clashed with fundamentalist Christian fans because he still performed his popular past hits.[9]

On MCA Records, Thomas and Chris Christian recorded what would be his last Top 40 hit single, "Don't Worry Baby", on his last pop album, which also included the Adult Contemporary hit "Still the Lovin' Is Fun".

During the 1980s, Thomas' success on the pop charts began to wane, but many of his singles reached the upper regions on the country singles chart, including two 1983 chart-toppers, "Whatever Happened to Old-Fashioned Love" and "New Looks from an Old Lover", as well as "Two Car Garage", which reached No. 3 on the country charts. In 1981, on his 39th birthday, Thomas became the 60th member of the Grand Ole Opry.[10] (Thomas' Opry membership later lapsed, with the Opry having classified him as a non-regular "guest artist."[11])

Thomas scored another hit, recording "As Long as We Got Each Other", the theme to the television series Growing Pains. The first-season theme was a solo for Thomas, but was re-recorded as a duet with Jennifer Warnes for the second and third seasons. For the show's fourth season, it was re-recorded again with British singer Dusty Springfield, but the Thomas/Warnes version was reinstated for season five and some of season seven. Thomas first released this track on his 1985 album Throwing Rocks at the Moon (Columbia Records).

Thomas in December 2012

Thomas also wrote two books, including the autobiography Home Where I Belong, and starred in the movies Jory and Jake's Corner. Several commercial jingles, including ones for Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Bell Telephone, have featured his singing voice and music. On December 31, 2011, Thomas was the featured halftime performer at the 2011 Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.

On April 2, 2013, Thomas released The Living Room Sessions, an album with acoustic arrangements of well-known hits. It features guest appearances with established and emerging vocalists accompanying Thomas on seven of the album's twelve tracks.[12]

On December 3, 2013, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced that his 1969 single "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" would be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[13]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Thomas among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal Studios fire.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Thomas married singer-songwriter Gloria Richardson in December 1968.[15][16] They had three daughters: Paige (born 1970), Nora (adopted from North Korea in 1978), and Erin (born in 1979).[17] Shortly after Thomas' career began, he became dependent on drugs and alcohol, which led to his marriage nearly ending. On January 28, 1976, Thomas became a Christian,[18] less than a month after Gloria did. Most press sources indicated that Thomas had been sober since he and Gloria reconciled in 1976.[16][19][20][21]

On March 23, 2021, Thomas announced on his official Facebook page that he had stage IV lung cancer and was being treated in Texas.[22] He died approximately nine weeks later on May 29 at his home in Arlington, Texas, at the age of 78.[3][23]

Discography[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Work Result Ref.
1970 Grammy Awards Best Male Pop Vocal Performance "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" Nominated [24]
1975 Country Music Association Single of the Year "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song" Nominated [25]
1976 GMA Dove Awards Album by a Secular Artist Home Where I Belong Won [26]
1977 Grammy Awards Best Inspirational Performance Home Where I Belong Won [24]
1978 Best Inspirational Performance Happy Man Won [24]
1979 Best Inspirational Performance You Gave Me Love (When Nobody Gave Me a Prayer) Won [24]
1980 Best Gospel Performance, Contemporary
With Reba Rambo, Dony McGuire, The Archers, Cynthia Clawson, Andrae Crouch, Tramaine Hawkins & Walter Hawkins
The Lord's Prayer Won [24]
1981 Best Inspirational Performance Amazing Grace Won [24]
1981 GMA Dove Awards Album by a Secular Artist Amazing Grace Won [26]
2014 NARAS Grammy Hall of Fame Award "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" Won [13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "B.J. Thomas Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved May 30, 2021.
  2. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. B.J. Thomas Biography at AllMusic. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Smith, Harrison (May 29, 2021). "B.J. Thomas, who sang 'Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head,' dies at 78". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 29, 2021.
  4. ^ "BJ Thomas obituary". the Guardian. May 31, 2021. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  5. ^ Wirt, John (February 9, 2007). "The music never gets old for Thomas". The Advocate (Online). p. 2. Retrieved February 20, 2007.
  6. ^ a b c d Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 213, 250, 268 & 365. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  7. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: T". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor and Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 16, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  8. ^ Uncredited, Profile of B.J. Thomas Archived March 7, 2016, at the Wayback Machine; www.xentel.com.
  9. ^ Silliman, Daniel (June 1, 2021). "Died: B.J. Thomas, Born-Again Singer Who Clashed with Evangelical Fans". Christianity Today. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  10. ^ Gary James, Interview with B.J. Thomas Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, 2005; www.classicbands.com.
  11. ^ "B.J. Thomas". Grand Ole Opry. June 30, 2014. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  12. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (2013). "B.J. Thomas The Living Room Sessions". The Living Room Sessions. AllMusic. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  13. ^ a b "2014 Grammy Hall of Fame". Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head. The Recording Academy. December 3, 2013. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  14. ^ Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  15. ^ "Gloria Thomas". AllMusic. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  16. ^ a b Jenkins, B.J. Thomas as told to Jerry B. (1982). Home where I belong ([Repr.] ed.). Waco, Texas: Word Books. ISBN 0849929059.
  17. ^ "Billy Joe Thomas: From Then to Now". Archived from the original on October 20, 2013. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  18. ^ Don Cusic (Editor) (2009). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music: Pop, Rock, and Worship. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, LLC. p. 439. ISBN 978-0313344251. Retrieved March 27, 2021.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  19. ^ Kennedy, John W. "Conversation: B.J. Thomas". Archived from the original on March 13, 2014.
  20. ^ Rick, Coates (August 22, 2011). "BJ Thomas". Northern Express. Retrieved August 7, 2014. Recommitting himself to his religious upbringing in 1976, Thomas pursued Christian music, finding success on the charts, but challenges on the road. Often blending his concerts with his Christian and pop songs, his Christian music didn't sit well with some in the audience.
  21. ^ Howard, Kerbel (August 6, 2014). "A Conversation With BJ Thomas: Love, Near Tragedy And A Song That Saved". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  22. ^ "Statement from The BJ Thomas" (Press release). Retrieved March 24, 2021 – via Facebook.
  23. ^ "'Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head' singer B.J. Thomas dies at 78". Associated Press. May 29, 2021 – via CBC.
  24. ^ a b c d e f "Awards: B.J. Thomas". Allmusic. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  25. ^ "Top CMA Award Nominees" (PDF). Academy of Country Music. p. 99. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 27, 2013. Nominated 1975 Single of the Year
  26. ^ a b "Artist"s Bio: BJ Thomas". Grand Ole Opry. Archived from the original on April 19, 2016. Retrieved April 19, 2016.

External links[edit]