Thomas, a Grammy and Dove award-winning singer and songwriter, died Saturday (5/29), just over two months after his March 23 announcement that he had stage IV lung cancer.
Billy Joe Thomas was born in Hugo, Oklahoma in 1942. He grew up listening to country music. He was given his first taste of fame with a 1966 cover of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." That success, however, came on the pop charts, not the country charts. In fact, he would have 20 pop chart songs before he ever hit the country chart. Those charted pop tunes included another Hank Williams song ("I Can't Help It [If I'm Still in Love With You]") and a remake of an Ernest Tubb hit ("Tomorrow Never Comes").
After Ray Stevens turned the producers down to do it, Thomas was recruited to sing the song "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" for the soundtrack of the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was a runaway smash hit, staying at #1 for four weeks and winning that year's "best song" Academy Award for writers Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
In 1975 his country career began when his second #1 hit, "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song" crossed over and topped the country charts as well. That "real hurting song about a love that's gone wrong" was a major milestone in Thomas' career, earning him his only CMA "song of the year" nomination" and sealing his transition to the country world. He scored two more #1 country hits with "Whatever Happened to Old Fashioned Love" and "New Looks From an Old Lover."
Another place to hear Thomas in the 80s was singing the theme to the TV series Growing Pains.
Dealing with a longtime addiction to pills and alcohol, Thomas credited his faith with helping him defeat the problems. His five Grammy award victories all came in the Inspirational/Gospel categories. He also won two Dove Awards for his gospel music.
Thomas was far from retired, planning a new album in 2020 when the pandemic struck.
Farewell to country, pop, and gospel great B.J. Thomas, who was 78.
K.F. Raizor, author of the website Raizor's Edge and the book We Can't Sing and We Ain't Funny: The World of Homer and Jethro is our guest writer today on That Nashville Sound. She's ever so gracious to provide wonderful tributes to honor those to whom the music we treasure just wouldn't be the same without. Thank you, K.F.