Sunday May 30th 2021
Five-time Grammy winner
Singer BJ Thomas is dead
He landed a world hit with “Raindrops Keep Fallin ‘On My Head” and has sold over 70 million albums in a career spanning over 50 years. Now singer and multiple Grammy winner BJ Thomas has succumbed to cancer at the age of 78.
The film scene, to which the most famous song by BJ Thomas was heard, has been a movie classic for 50 years: the still very young Paul Newman rides his bike with an irresistible laugh, his girlfriend Katharine Ross sits in front on the handlebars – all highlighted by “Raindrops Keep Fallin ‘On My Head “.
The warm, slightly roughened voice of the US singer from Oklahoma fits perfectly with the melody, which is characterized by banjo, strings and brass, a stroke of genius by the composer Burt Bacharach and his partner Hal David. The soundtrack song from the western comedy “Zwei Banditen” (1969) – with Newman and Robert Redford as the sympathetic crooks Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid – became a worldwide hit, won an Oscar and shaped the pop career of Billy Joe Thomas, who was born in 1942.
After a very successful career, especially in the USA, the musician died on Saturday at the age of 78 in Arlington / Texas, as his management announced via the artist website and Twitter. Lung cancer that became known in March led to death. In Germany, BJ Thomas was seen by many as a “one-hit wonder”, as a musician with only one commercially very successful song. In America it was different – there the five-time Grammy winner (including, of course, for “Raindrops …”) temporarily advanced to a very big number in pop, country and gospel music.
“I’m just some normal guy”
According to management information, Thomas has sold over 70 million albums in his 50-year career. He had eight number one hits and 26 top 10 singles, including catchy songs like “I Just Can’t Help Believing” or “Hooked On A Feeling”. A cover version of Hank Williams’ country ballad “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” also earned a lot of praise – it was his first pop triumph in the USA in 1966.
In times of declining success and despite alcohol and drug problems, Thomas continued to tour. Always in my luggage: the melancholy song about that little bit of confidence under the constant dripping rain. The touching song also had pride of place in other film hits such as “Forrest Gump” and “Spider-Man 2”. Thomas himself finally found a foundation in Christian faith, which he also lived out artistically in religious “Spiritual Music”, for example with the interpretation of “Amazing Grace”. “Few artists have left such an indelible mark on America’s musical map as BJ Thomas,” emphasized his management on Sunday at the news of his death. Only a few weeks ago the singer himself had de facto said goodbye: “I ask you all for your prayers during this time – and that my music can continue to live with you.”
The acoustic album “The Living Room Sessions” released in 2013, in which Thomas sang his best songs in duets, for example with Richard Marx, Vince Gill or Lyle Lovett, showed how recognized the Texan by choice was also among musician colleagues. “I’m just some normal guy,” he said modestly in old age. “I was very lucky and had a wonderful life. (…) I hope that doesn’t sound too bombastic, but that’s the way it was.” BJ Thomas leaves behind his wife Gloria, with whom he was married for 53 years, as well as three daughters and four grandchildren. And at least one vocal performance, a song that will last forever.