Wednesday, April 27, 2016

BILLY PAUL (1934 - 2016)


Billy Paul, best known for his number one 1972 soul single, "Me & Mrs. Jones", has sadly passed away on April 24th. He had been struggling with pancreatic cancer for the last few years.

He was born Paul Williams and raised in the north side of Philadelphia. He loved to sing as a child and it was female jazz singers in particular like Nancy Wilson, Billie Holiday and Nina Simone that would influence his singing style. He began singing professionally at eleven, performing at local clubs and college campuses around the city.

Not wanting to be confused with other performers that shared his name, Williams later changed his to "Billy Paul" when he career began to take off. He recorded a few singles (but they didn't make the charts) before he was drafted in the army in 1957. Paul was stationed in Germany with other musicians which included a rising pop star, Elvis Presley. He helped put together a jazz band (that featured Gary Crosby, Bing's son) and they toured the country. Presley was asked to join but turned down the offer as he preferred to become a jeep driver while he served.

After leaving the army, Paul returned to music and performed with various jazz and soul groups.  By the late sixties, he begun working on a solo career and met Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. He joined their new label, Philadelphia International Records and together they finally had a breakthrough with Paul's fourth album, "360 Degrees of Billy Paul". The single, "Me & Mrs. Jones", about an extramarital affair between a man and his lover, reached the top of the soul and pop charts and would sell two million copies.

Billy Paul never reached this level of success again but he continued to dazzle audiences with his recordings and concert tours throughout the years.

Here is the singer performing his classic tune on "Soul Train":

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