B.J. Thomas, 'Hooked on a Feeling' singer, dies at 78
B.J. Thomas, a five-time Grammy award winner and Grammy Hall of Fame inductee, died from complications due to stage four lung cancer at his home in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday. He was 78.
A rep for Thomas confirmed the singer's death. The news comes after he publicly announced his health battle in March.
"I just wanted to take this unique opportunity to share my gratitude to Gloria, my wonderful wife and my rock for over 53 years, my family, friends, and fans," he said at the time.
Following his emergence in the 1960s, the singer released a string of hits, including "Hooked on a Feeling," "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," which earned the Best Original Song Oscar, a cover of Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," and "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song."
Named as one of Billboard's Top 50 Most Played Artists Over the Past 50 Years, Thomas has sold over 70 million albums worldwide, scoring eight No. 1 hits and 26 Top 10 singles.
Born in Hugo, Okla., Billy Joe Thomas grew up in Houston, Texas, where he derived much of his early musical influences from traditional country tunes. As a child, he sang as part of his local church service and later joined the Houston-based band the Triumphs.
Thomas broke onto the music scene in 1966 with the track "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," which peaked at No. 8 on the pop charts. It went on to become his first million-selling single. He unveiled his first solo album that same year and in 1968, "Hooked on a Feeling" — from his sophomore record On My Way — became his second million-selling release.
The performer's career took a significant turn in 1970 when his pal Dionne Warwick introduced him to songwriter-producer Burt Bacharach, with who he later collaborated (along with Hal David) for "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head." The beloved song was featured in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and became a 2014 inductee into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
What followed was a long list of chart-topping releases, "Everybody's Out of Town," "I Just Can't Help Believing," "No Love at All," and "Rock and Roll Lullaby" among them.
But his life in the spotlight was not without its struggles. Thomas battled drug use and substance abuse. He eventually became a devoted Christian in 1976 and credited his spirituality for helping him become sober. It also influenced the course of his career, leading him to tackle the gospel genre, with albums like the Grammy-winning Home Where I Belong. It became the first gospel record to sell a million copies.
Thomas is survived by his wife of 53 years, Gloria, and their three daughters Paige Thomas, Nora Cloud, and Erin Moore.
"All I am is just another guy. I've been very lucky," he wrote on his website. "I've had a wonderful life, I've been a husband and a father who cherishes his children and now I'm a grandfather, and I'm motivated like all these teachers and preachers and mothers and fathers to help my kids grow up with character and self-respect. I hope that doesn't sound too grandiose, but that's what it comes down to. It's what I've tried to do with my music and with the majority of my life."
Funeral arrangements will remain private. In-memoriam donations will be accepted by Mission Arlington, Tarrant Area Food Bank, and the SPCA of Texas.