B.J. Thomas, the Grammy-winning singer whose mellifluous voice crossed multiple genres including country pop and gospel, died Saturday at his Arlington, Texas, home. He was 78.
The singer is perhaps best known for his recording of the 1968 hit “Hooked on a Feeling” and the single “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for the 1969 movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” The upbeat lyrics included the line: “It won’t be long ’til happiness steps up to greet me.: The infectious tune won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
“It is with profound sadness we confirm the passing of B.J. Thomas,” a statement read on Thomas’ Twitter account. Representatives confirmed in a statement that Thomas died from complications from Stage 4 lung cancer.
Thomas was a five-time Grammy Award winner and a Grammy Hall of Fame inductee. He also earned CMA and Dove awards and nominations during a long career launched in the 1960s.
Along with “Raindrops,” Thomas’ hits include the million-selling cover of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and the Grammy-winning “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.” Thomas has sold over 70 million albums worldwide, scoring eight No. 1 hits and 26 Top 10 singles. He was named one of Billboard’s Top 50 Most Played Artists Over The Past 50 Years. Other hits include “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Whatever Happened To Old Fashioned Love” and “New Looks From An Old Lover.”
Despite the positive lyrics of “Raindrops,” Thomas struggled with drugs and battled substance abuse. According to a statement, Thomas’ wife Gloria became a born-again Christian and Thomas also became a believer in 1976. He promptly quit drugs and expanded his career into gospel music, adding to his previous track record in country songs. He also voiced the theme song “As Long as We’ve Got Each Other” for the TV series “Growing Pains.”
In a 2020 interview published in TulsaWorld, Thomas talked about his humble roots, born in Oklahoma and growing up in Houston. “My Dad was just a working man. He was a good man and he loved music. I can remember being a kid and listening to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday night.”
In a quote from his website, Thomas said: “All I am is just another guy. I’ve been very lucky…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.”
B.J. Thomas is survived by Gloria, his wife of 53 years; three daughters Paige Thomas, Nora Cloud and Erin Moore, and four grandchildren.