Grammy-winning singer who enjoyed success on the pop, country and gospel charts announced in March he had lung cancer
Associated Press in Arlington, Texas
Sun 30 May 2021 08.41 EDT
BJ Thomas, a Grammy-winning singer who enjoyed success on the pop, country and gospel charts with hits including Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head and Hooked on a Feeling, has died. He was 78.
Thomas, who announced in March that he had lung cancer, died on Saturday at his home in Arlington, Texas, his publicist said.
A Hugo, Oklahoma-native who grew up in Houston, Billy Joe Thomas broke through in 1966 with a gospel-styled cover of Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. He went on to sell millions of records and have dozens of hits.
He reached No1 with pop, adult contemporary and country listeners in 1976 with (Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song. The same year, Home Where I Belong became one of the first gospel albums to sell more than a million copies.
Dionne Warwick, who duetted with Thomas, tweeted: “My sincere condolences to the family of one of my favorite duet partners, BJ Thomas. I will miss him as I know so many others will as well. Rest In Peace my friend.”
Thomas’ signature recording was Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, a No1 pop hit and an Oscar-winner for best original song as part of one of the biggest movies of 1969, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Thomas wasn’t the first choice to perform the whimsical ballad composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David but his warm, soulful tenor fit the song’s easygoing mood.
Raindrops has been heard everywhere from The Simpsons to Forrest Gump and was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2013. Thomas would say the phenomenon of Raindrops exacerbated an addiction to pills and alcohol which dated back to his teens, when a record producer in Houston suggested he take amphetamines.
He was touring and recording constantly and taking dozens of pills a day. By 1976, while (Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song was hitting No1, he felt like he was “number 1,000”.
“I was at the bottom with my addictions and my problems,” he said in 2020. He cited a “spiritual awakening”, shared with his wife, Gloria Richardson, with helping him get clean.
Thomas had few pop hits after the mid-1970s but he continued to score on the country charts with such songs as Whatever Happened to Old-Fashioned Love and New Looks from an Old Lover. In the late 1970s and early 80s he was a top gospel and inspirational singer, winning two Dove awards and five Grammys.
Fans of the 1980s sitcom Growing Pains heard him as the singer of the theme song. He also acted in movies including Jory and Jake’s Corner. Recent recordings included Living Room Music, featuring Lyle Lovett, Vince Gill and Richard Marx. He planned to record in 2020 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama but the sessions were delayed by the pandemic.
Thomas married Richardson in 1968 and had three daughters: Paige, Nora and Erin. He and his wife worked on a 1982 memoir, In Tune: Finding How Good Life Can Be. His book Home Where I Belong came out in 1978 and was co-authored by Jerry B Jenkins, later famous for the Left Behind religious novels written with Tim LaHaye.
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