April 24, 2016: Billy Paul, Soul Singer of ‘Me and Mrs. Jones,’ Dies

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Photo via BillyPaul.com

Photo via BillyPaul.com

The Grammy Award-winning soul singer Billy Paul, best known for his 1972 #1 smash, “Me and Mrs. Jones,” died April 24, 2016. Jones was among the stable of artists on the hugely successful Philadelphia International roster overseen by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Paul died at 80 in Blackwood, NJ and had been suffering from pancreatic cancer.

“Me and Mrs. Jones,” about an extra-marital affair, was by far Paul’s biggest hit, placing #1 on both the pop and R&B charts, and earning him a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance. He earned two other R&B Top 10 songs in the ’70s including “Thanks For Saving My Life.”

A statement on his website indicated:

“We regret to announce with a heavy heart that Billy has passed away today at home after a serious medical condition.

We would like to extend our most sincere condolences to his wife Blanche and family for their loss, as they and the world grieves the loss of another musical icon that helped pioneered today’s R&B music. Billy will be truly missed.”

Related: The biggest radio hits of 1972

Paul was born Dec. 1, 1935, in Philadelphia, Penn., and made his first recordings while still a teenager. In 1957, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. From an interview on his website: “I went in… and was stationed with Elvis Presley and Gary Crosby – Bing Crosby’s son. We were in Germany and we said we’re going to start a band, so we didn’t have to do any hard work in the service.

“We tried to get Elvis to join but he wanted to be a jeep driver. So me and Gary Crosby, we started it and called ourselves the Jazz Blues Symphony Band. Some famous people came out of that band; Cedar Walton, Eddie Harris and we toured all over Germany.  Elvis didn’t wanna join us. I used to see him every day but he drove the jeep for the Colonel. He didn’t want to join our band. He wanted to get away from music for a while.”

Paul’s debut album, of jazz covers, was released in 1968. In the ensuing years, he joined Gamble and Huff’s new label as it struck a deal with CBS Records for distribution and promotion, leading to the success of “Me and Mrs. Jones,” and numerous charting albums.

Other prominent acts that recorded for Philadelphia International during their 1970s heyday were The O’Jays, the Three Degrees, MFSB and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes.

Related: A documentary on the influential label is coming

Best Classic Bands Staff

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