Billy Paul died at his home Sunday morning after being admitted a week earlier at Temple University Hospital following a cancer diagnosis, according to his manager, Beverly Gay.
Born Paul Williams in Philadelphia, his love of music began at a young age while listening to his family’s collection of 78’s. Partiuclarly influenced by influenced by female Jazz singers, beginning with Billie Holiday, he started his singing career at age of 11, appearing on local radio station WPEN, then coming to perform along with many Jazz and Soul luminaries such as Charlie Parker, Nina Simone, Miles Davis and Roberta Flack.
Billy happened to be one of many singers who found success with the writing and producing team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, scoring his biggest classic under the form of the memorable ‘Me & Mrs Jones’ which depicts an extra-marital story. A song which would get him to be given a Grammy Award, soon after followed by the release of the funky gem ‘Am I Black Enough for You?’, seen by many as a classic of the then emerging Black identity, alongside James Brown‘s ‘Say It Loud’ and cited by Questlove of the Roots as “One of the criminally unmentioned proprietors of socially conscious post-revolution 60’s civil rights music.”
Billy Paul released a total of 15 albums between 1968 and 1988, with other gems of him worth the listen being ‘Only The Strong Survive’ (1977), ‘Bring The Family Back’ (1979), ‘Sexual Therapy’ in the vein of Marvin Gaye‘s ‘Sexual Healing’ (1985) and a cover version of Elton John‘s ‘Your Song’ (1994) which he initially sung 20 years before as a part of his 1974 released ‘Live In Europe’ album.
Sunday night, Phildelphia International Records moguls Gamble and Huff released the following statement: “We are very saddened to learn of the sudden death of our good friend and Philadelphia International Records recording artist Billy Paul. From the time we saw Billy performing live, and then signing him to our PIR/TSOP label, we immediately realized that we had discovered and launched one the most unique voices in the music industry. Billy’s voice combined both Jazz, R&B and Soul vocals, making him one the great artists to come out of Philly and to be celebrated worldwide. Our proudest moment with Billy was the recording of the salacious smash ‘Me and Mrs. Jones.’ In our view, it is one of the greatest love songs ever recorded. Billy was one of the first artists to help launch the PIR/TSOP brand, and he will forever have a special place in music history.” One of his last appearances being on French singer Chimène Badie 2011 ‘Gospel & Soul’ album with both of them covering the Ashford & Simpson penned ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’.
Indamixworldwide would like to address their deepest condolences to Billy Paul‘s wife Blanche Williams, their children, family and friends…