B.J. Thomas, ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ Singer, Dead at 78
Grammy-winning pop, country and gospel singer B.J. Thomas has died at age 78 following a bout with lung cancer. He died earlier today at his home in Arlington, Texas.
Thomas, best known for hits like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” and “Hooked on a Feeling,” announced in March that he had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. “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 in a statement at the time.
Born on Aug. 7, 1942, in Hugo, Okla., and raised outside Houston, Thomas sang in his church choir as a teenager and fronted the Triumphs before embarking on a solo career. In 1966, he earned his first gold record with a cover of Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," which sold over 1 million copies and peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Thomas' star continued to rise with his 1968 album, On My Way, which featured the hit single "Hooked on a Feeling." The song, distinguished by Reggie Young's electric sitar intro, peaked at No. 5 on the Hot 100 and became Thomas' second gold record, selling over a million copies. In December 1968, Thomas also married singer-songwriter Gloria Richardson, to whom he remained married his whole life.
The success of "Hooked on a Feeling" paled in comparison to Thomas' next smash hit: "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," a Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition that highlighted the 1969 Western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The song won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1969 and soared to No. 1 on the Hot 100 the following January. In 2014, the Recording Academy inducted "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Thomas collected several more pop hits throughout the next decade, including 1970's "I Just Can't Help Believing" (No. 9) and 1975's chart-topping "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song," which remains the longest title of any song to top the Hot 100. Yet as Thomas' career flourished, his increasing drug and alcohol use threatened to splinter his marriage. Salvation came in 1975, when Thomas and Gloria both converted to Christianity and began to mend their relationship.
The following year, Thomas released his first gospel album, Home Where I Belong, establishing him as one of the era's biggest contemporary Christian artists. He went on to earn Grammy nods for Best Inspirational Performance seven consecutive years (1978-1984), including four wins in that category. (He also took home Best Gospel Performance in 1981.)
In 1977, Thomas scored his last Top 40 hit on the Hot 100 with a cover of the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby." As a new decade dawned, he pivoted to country music and launched several songs to the upper echelon of that genre's charts, including the No. 1 hits "Whatever Happened to Old-Fashioned Love" and "New Looks From an Old Lover" in 1983. He also recorded the theme song for the popular sitcom Growing Pains, "As Long As We Got Each Other."
Thomas continued to tour and release country and gospel albums throughout the next several decades. He last appeared on the Billboard charts with his 2013 acoustic duets album, The Living Room Sessions, which reached No. 39 on the Top Country Albums chart.
At the time of his cancer diagnosis, Thomas told fans, “I’m so blessed to have had the opportunity to record and perform beautiful songs in pop, country and gospel music, and to share those wonderful songs and memories around the world with millions of you."