B. J. Thomas, a five-time Grammy award winner and Grammy Hall of Fame inductee, died May 29 at age 78 at his home in Arlington. Thomas died from complications due to stage four lung cancer.
An artist who left an indelible mark on America’s musical landscape, Thomas’s expansive career crossed multiple genres. From country and pop to gospel music, he received CMA, Dove, and Grammy awards and nominations since the 1960s. Thomas has sold over 70 million albums worldwide, scoring eight No. 1 hits and 26 Top 10 singles over his 50+ year career. He was named one of Billboard’s Top 50 Most Played Artists over the Past 50 Years.
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head”
His iconic hit, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” won the Academy Award for best original song in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Others include his rendition of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and Grammy-winning “(Hey, Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.” Other memorable Thomas hits include “I Just Can’t Help Believing, “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Whatever Happened To Old Fashioned Love,” “New Looks From An Old Lover” and “Hooked on a Feeling.”
Billy Joe Thomas was born in Hugo, OK, but moved to Houston with his family, and began singing in church as a child. In his teens he joined a Houston-based band, the Triumphs. His first success came when he recorded “I’m So Lonesome” in 1966. The Scepter Records release rose to #8 on the pop charts, and became his first million-selling single. His 1968 release of “Hooked on a Feeling” was his second million-selling single. His biggest hit came in 1970, when Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s Oscar-winning song, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”
Like many other successful artists, Thomas fell into drug abuse. After his wife Gloria became a born-again Christian, Thomas also became a believer in 1976. He quit drugs and started to express his faith in gospel music, signing with Myrrh Records. He released the album Home Where I Belong in 1976, winning Thomas a Grammy and the first of two Dove Award wins. He soon became one of gospel music’s most successful artists.
B. J. Thomas Hits
A string of country music hits followed in the 1980s, including “Whatever Happened to Old Fashioned Love,” “New Looks from an Old Lover Again,” “The Whole World’s in Love When You’re Lonely” and “Two Car Garage.” “(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, Thomas became the 60th member of the Grand Ole Opry.
In 2013, Thomas celebrated his nearly six decades in the music industry by releasing The Living Room Sessions, featuring duets with other high-profile artists on his best loved hits.
His duet partners included Lyle Lovett, Vince Gill, Sara Niemitz, Keb’ Mo, Isaac Slade and Richard Marx.
B. J. Thomas is survived by his wife of 53 years, Gloria, their three daughters Paige Thomas, Nora Cloud, and Erin Moore, and four grandchildren, Nadia Cloud, Keira Cloud, Ruby Moore, and Billy Joe Moore. Funeral arrangements are forthcoming and will remain private. In lieu of flowers, in-memoriam donations will be accepted by Mission Arlington, Tarrant Area Food Bank, and the SPCA of Texas.