Five-time Grammy award winner and Grammy Hall of Fame inductee B.J. Thomas died today at his home in Arlington, Texas at 78. His death was confirmed on his official Facebook page and was attributed to complications from lung cancer.
A versatile songwriter, Thomas’s career spanned country, pop and gospel, earning him CMA, Dove and Grammy awards. He sold more than 70 million albums worldwide, scored eight No. 1 hits, and had 26 Top 10 singles over his 50 years in the music business.
His hits included a cover of the Hank Williams song “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” the Grammy winning “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” and the monster hit, “Hooked On A Feeling.”
Thomas was also named one of Billboard’s Top 50 Most-Played Artists Over The Past 50 Years. Other hits by the artist included “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Whatever Happened To Old Fashioned Love,” and “New Looks From An Old Lover.”
Born in rural Hugo, Oklahoma as Billy Joe Thomas, he moved to Houston, Texas with his family and began singing in church as a child.
He joined the local band the Triumphs, and then in 1966 recorded “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” with producer Huey P. Meaux. Released by Scepter Records, it peaked at No. 8 on the pop charts and became his first million-selling single.
The follow-up single, “Mama,” and his first album came that same year. In 1968, he released the million-selling “Hooked on a Feeling” from his album, On My Way.
Dionne Warwick met Thomas when he visited the Scepter offices in New York and introduced him to songwriter-producer Burt Bacharach. That led to a collaboration on “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” written by Bacharach and Hal David and sung by Thomas.
The song was featured in the Paul Newman/Robert Redford film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, earning the Oscar for Best Original Song. It has since reoccurred in such films as Forrest Gump, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Clerks II, and Spider-Man 2, as well as multiple TV shows.
Thomas kept rolling with such pop/rock hits as “Everybody’s Out of Town,” “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “No Love at All” and “Rock and Roll Lullaby.”
He signed to Paramount Records and released two albums—1973’s Songs and 1974’s Longhorns & Londonbridges. In 1975, Thomas released the album Reunion on ABC Records, featuring “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.”
The success wasn’t easy on Thomas, who fell into drug use. But he returned as a Born Again Christian in gospel music, signing with Myrrh Records and releasing the album Home Where I Belong in 1976.
It won Thomas a Grammy and became the first of two Dove Award wins while also becoming the first gospel record to sell a million copies.
His “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song was No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot Country Songs charts. It won the Grammy for Best Country Song in 1976 and was nominated for CMA Single of the Year. On his 39th birthday in 1981, he also joined the Grand Ole Opry.
Thomas found the time to voice the theme song, “As Long As We’ve Got Each Other” for the TV series Growing Pains, and he also was heard on numerous commercials, including campaigns for Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
No information on survivors or a memorial was immediately available.