|Crossover artist, Grammy, Dove winner BJ Thomas dead at 78|
|Written by Marti Pieper|
|Monday, 09 August 2021 10:27 AM America/New_York|
Billy Joe “B.J.” Thomas, Grammy Hall of Fame inductee and award-winning country, pop and gospel singer behind hits including “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head” and “Hooked on a Feeling,” died at age 78 on May 29, 2021, at his home in Arlington, Texas, of complications of stage 4 lung cancer.
Born in Hugo, Oklahoma, and reared in Houston, Texas, Thomas had a breakthrough hit 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 No. 1 with pop, adult contemporary and country listeners in 1976 with “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.” He won five Grammys and sold more than 70 million records.
Thomas’ iconic hit “Raindrops” from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. He later said the song’s success exacerbated an addiction to pills and alcohol dating back to his teens, when a record producer in Houston suggested he take amphetamines to boost his energy levels. Touring and recording constantly, he took dozens of pills a day. By 1976, while “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” was hitting No. 1, he said he felt like he was “No. 1,000.”
“I was at the bottom with my addictions and my problems,” he said in 2020 on The Debby Campbell Goodtime Show. But when his wife, Gloria, became a born-again Christian, the singer also came to Christ and began expressing his newfound faith via gospel music. He quit drugs immediately, signed with Myrrh Records and released the album Home Where I Belong in 1976. The project, which won a Grammy and became the first of his two Dove Award wins, also became the first gospel record to sell a million copies.
Thomas went on to continued success in multiple genres and, although he stopped recording exclusively for the Christian market, performed in a church setting as recently as 2019. Thomas wrote two books, including his autobiography, Home Where I Belong, co-authored with New York Times bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins. He leaves behind Gloria, his wife of 53 years; their three daughters and four grandchildren.— Marti Pieper