BJ Thomas, a Grammy-winning singer who enjoyed success on the pop, country and gospel charts with hits like Raindrops Keep Fallin ‘On My Head and Hooked on a Feeling, has passed away. He was 78 years old.
Thomas, who announced in March that he had lung cancer, died Saturday at his home in Arlington, Texas, his publicist said.
Billy Joe Thomas, a native of Hugo, Oklahoma who grew up in Houston, broke through in 1966 with a gospel-style version of Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. It continued to sell millions of records and had dozens of hits.
It reached number one among pop, contemporary adult 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 did a duet with Thomas, tweeted: “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. “
Thomas’s signature recording was Raindrops Keep Fallin ‘On My Head, a number one pop hit and winner of the Oscar for best original song as part of one of the biggest films 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 and soulful tenor fit the song’s laid-back 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 that the Raindrops phenomenon exacerbated an addiction to pills and alcohol that dates back to his adolescence, when a record producer in Houston suggested she take amphetamines.
I was on tour and constantly recording and taking dozens of pills a day. In 1976, as (Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song reached number one, it felt like “number 1,000”.
“I was deep down with my addictions and my problems,” he said in 2020. He cited a “spiritual awakening” that he shared with his wife, Gloria Richardson, for helping him cleanse himself.
Thomas had few pop hits after the mid-1970s, but he continued to score on the country music charts with songs like Whatever Happened to Old-Fashioned Love and New Looks from an Old Lover. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was a top-inspired and gospel singer, winning two Dove Awards and five Grammy Awards.
Fans of the ’80s sitcom Growing Pains heard him as the lead song singer. He also acted in movies like Jory and Jake’s Corner. Recent recordings include Living Room Music, with Lyle Lovett, Vince Gill, and Richard Marx. He planned to shoot in 2020 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, but sessions were delayed by the pandemic.
Thomas married Richardson in 1968 and they 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 was published 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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