Singer B.J. Thomas, whose hits included “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” Hooked on a Feeling” and “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” died Saturday. He was 78.
Thomas’ ability to mix the talents of a pop crooner with the soul of a country singer enabled him to score a string of hits, Rolling Stone reported.
Thomas was a five-time Grammy award winner and was elected to the Grammy Hall of Fame.
His 1969 pop classic, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” was a 2014 inductee into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The song was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and was included in the 1969 movie, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
Thomas’ version of the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for four weeks, Rolling Stone reported. The song won an Academy Award for best original song.
The song has also appeared in several films, including “Spider-Man 2” and “Forrest Gump,” ET Canada reported.
Thomas scored a crossover hit in 1975 with “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song,” which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s pop charts and then reached the top spot on Billboard’s country music rankings.
“Ever since the beginning I’ve tried to do positive music, even though it has meant a lot of struggles against record companies and producers,” Thomas said in a 2006 interview with Pentecostal Evangel, a Christian magazine. “I want my music to have a positive effect on people. When I perform live I hope the audience will leave with their heads lifted up.”
Billy Joe Thomas was born in Hugo, Oklahoma, and grew up in Houston, Rolling Stone reported. He picked up his nickname while playing baseball for Lamar Consolidated High School, since there were already several Billys playing in the league, the magazine reported.
Thomas began his solo career in 1966 with a cover of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” that he recorded with Houston-area band the Triumphs, the Post reported. The song reached No. 8 on the Billboard charts, the Post reported.
Thomas entered the Top 10 two years later with the love song,“Hooked on a Feeling,” which opened with an electric sitar solo and became an even bigger hit in 1974 when it was recorded by the pop group Blue Swede, who incorporated a distinctive “ooga-chaka-ooga-ooga” vocal introduction, the Post reported.
But “Raindrops” would be Thomas’ signature hit.
According to Steve Tyrell, a Scepter Records A&R executive in 1969 the singer’s future manager, Ray Stevens was originally offered “Raindrops” but declined, Rolling Stone reported. Thomas recorded the song while battling laryngitis, but after several takes, Bacharach was satisfied and an executive from 20th Century Fox praised hailed the singer for performing with a rasp that sounded similar to “Butch Cassidy’s” costar, Paul Newman. Thomas also performed the song at the 1970 Academy Awards.
“His was the perfect voice for the song,” Bacharach would tell the Houston Chronicle. “He knew how to sit back with his vocal and let the song go where it needed to go.”
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