B. J. Thomas, Grammy Hall of Fame inductee and award-winning country singer famous for recording the original version of ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ and ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’, has died. His family confirmed that Thomas passed away at his home in Arlington, Texas, on Saturday due to complications from stage 4 lung cancer. He was 78.
Thomas first announced his diagnosis in March. “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,” he said in a statement at the time. “I ask all of you for your prayers during this time and that my music can live on with you.”
Born in Hugo, Oklahoma, Thomas was raised in and around Houston, Texas and sang in his church choir as a teenager. He then fronted a band called the Triumphs and found success with a cover of William’s ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ in 1966, which sold over 1 million copies and peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. The band broke up shortly after, and Thomas embarked on a solo career, scoring another hit with ‘Hooked On A Feeling’, from his 1968 album On My Way. Driven by Reggie Young’s electric sitar intro, the song became Thomas’ second gold record and was famously covered by Blue Suede years later.
Thomas’ first No. 1 hit was ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’, which was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1969 as part of the classic Paul Newman/Robert Redford western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In 2014, the Recording Academy inducted ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’ into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Thomas went on to score several more pop and country hits, including another No. 1 in 1975 with ‘(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song’, which remains the longest title of any song to claim the top spot in the Hot 100. At the same time, he struggled with increasing substance abuse that threatened to destroy his marriage. In the mid-’70s, Thomas and his wife Gloria converted to Christianity, which led Thomas to quit drugs and shift his focus on religious music. He went on to win five Grammys, including one for his first gospel album, 1976’s Home Where I Belong. He continued releasing albums for the next several decades, and last appeared on the Billboard charts with his 2013 acoustic duets album, The Living Room Sessions.
Thomas is survived by wife Gloria, who he was married to for 53 years; their three daughters, Paige Thomas, Nora Cloud, and Erin Moore, and four grandchildren, Nadia Cloud, Keira Cloud, Ruby Moore, and Billy Joe Moore. In lieu of flowers, in memoriam donations can be made to Mission Arlington, Tarrant Area Food Bank, and the SPCA of Texas.
“All I am is just another guy,” Thomas wrote in a note on his website. “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.”