Grammy-Winning Singer BJ Thomas Dead At 78
BJ Thomas, the Grammy-winning singer who enjoyed success on the pop, country, and gospel charts with such hits as I Just Can’t Help Believing, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, and Hooked On A Feeling has died at the age of 78.
A statement released by his representatives said the US star, who announced in March that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, died from complications of the disease on Saturday at his home in Arlington, Texas.
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 and went on to sell millions of records and have dozens of hits across genres.
He reached number one with pop, adult contemporary, and country listeners in 1976 with (Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.
The same year, his Home Where I Belong became one of the first gospel albums to be certified platinum for selling more than one million copies.
His signature recording was Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, a number one pop hit and an Oscar winner for the best original song as part of the soundtrack to one of the biggest movies of 1969, the irreverent western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
BJ wasn’t actually the first choice to perform the whimsical ballad composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Ray Stevens turned the songwriters down.
However, BJ’s warm, soulful tenor fitted the song’s easy-going mood, immortalised on film during the scene in which Butch (Paul Newman) shows off his new bicycle to Etta Place (Katharine Ross), the girlfriend of the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford).
Raindrops has since been heard everywhere from The Simpsons to Forrest Gump and was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2013. But, at first, not everyone was satisfied.
BJ was recovering from laryngitis while recording the soundtrack version and his vocals are raspier than for the track released on its own. Redford, meanwhile, doubted the song even belonged in Butch Cassidy.
In the late 1970s and early ’80s, he was also a top gospel and inspirational singer, winning two Dove awards and five Grammys, including a Grammy in 1979 for best gospel performance for The Lord’s Prayer.
BJ married Richardson in 1968 and had three daughters: Paige, Nora, and Erin. He and his wife worked on the 1982 memoir In Tune: Finding How Good Life Can Be as reported by HuffPost.