In Memoriam: B.J. Thomas (1942 – 2021)

Billy Joe Thomas (August 7, 1942 – May 29, 2021) was an American singer widely known as B. J. Thomas for his pop, country, and Christian hits of the 1960s and 1970s. He made popular recordings of “Hooked on a Feeling” (1968), “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” (1969) and “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” (1975).

During the 1980s, his success on the pop charts began to wane, but many of his singles reached the upper regions on the country singles chart, including two 1983 chart toppers, “Whatever Happened to Old-Fashioned Love” and “New Looks from an Old Lover”, as well as “Two Car Garage”, which reached number three on the country charts. In 1981, on his 39th birthday, Thomas became the 60th member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Thomas scored another hit, recording “As Long as We Got Each Other”, the theme to the television series Growing Pains. The first-season theme was a solo for Thomas, but was re-recorded as a duet with Jennifer Warnes for the second and third seasons. It was re-recorded again for the show’s fourth season with British singer Dusty Springfield, but the Thomas/Warnes version was reinstated for season five and some of season seven. Thomas first released this track on his 1985 album Throwing Rocks at the Moon (Columbia Records).

Thomas also authored two books including the autobiography Home Where I Belong, and starred in the movies Jory and Jake’s Corner. Several commercial jingles, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Bell Telephone, have featured his singing voice and music. On December 31, 2011, Thomas was the featured halftime performer at the 2011 Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.

On April 2, 2013, Thomas released The Living Room Sessions, an album with acoustic arrangements of well-known hits. It features guest appearances with established and emerging vocalists accompanying Thomas on seven of the album’s twelve tracks.

On December 3, 2013, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced that his 1969 single “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” would be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Thomas among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.

Thomas was married to singer-songwriter Gloria Richardson since December 1968. They have three daughters: Paige (born 1970), Nora (adopted from North Korea in 1978), and Erin (born in 1979). Shortly after Thomas’s career began, he became dependent on drugs and alcohol, which led to his marriage nearly ending. On January 28, 1976, Thomas became a Christian, less than a month after Gloria did. Most press sources indicated that Thomas had been sober since he and Gloria reconciled in 1976.

On March 23, 2021, Thomas announced on his official Facebook page that he had stage IV lung cancer and was being treated in Texas. He died approximately nine weeks later on May 29 at his home in Arlington, Texas, at the age of 78.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.