Legendary Philly Soul Singer Billy Paul Dies at 80
Philadelphia soul legend Billy Paul died Sunday at his home in Blackwood, New Jersey of pancreatic cancer. Paul, 80, had been taken to Temple University Hospital last week, his manager, Beverly Gay, told NBC10.
A message posted to Paul’s website confirmed his passing.
“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 pioneer today’s R&B music. Billy will be truly missed.”
Born Paul Williams in North Philadelphia, he sang on local radio station WPEN at age 11 and went on to attend both the West Philadelphia Music School and the Granoff School of Music. In 1972, Paul released perhaps his most popular song — “Me and Mrs. Jones.” It would top the Billboard Top 100 and R&B singles chart and eventually win him a Grammy in 1973 for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male.
The “About” page on Paul’s website references The Roots’ Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson‘s reverence for Paul. Questlove compared Paul to Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder in terms of his music’s importance. He called Paul “one of the criminally unmentioned proprietors of socially conscious post-revolution ’60s civil rights music.”
The Amazing Velvet Voiced Singer there ever was. He even made extra marital affairs sound awesome "Me & Mrs Jones". Through Dilla most of us learned to keep the Dollar Circulating. But man Billy Paul was the SPIRIT of The Sound Of Philadelphia. The most political voice in the PIR cannon. Be it incarceration or living conditions in the ghetto.—this —-I'm thinking and typing in real time. —-this musical rapture going on in 2016 is scaring me. All the adults that affected me in my childhood are making an exodus one by one. The music world lost a CRUCIAL unique vocalist this evening. No one has that velvet texture. Man….this is a sad year for my record collection. BillyPaulRIP.
In 2008, Paul was inducted to the Philadelphia Walk of Fame. in 2015, Philly Mag’s Sandy Hingston named him one of Philly’s 13 all-time best singers. Earlier this year, Paul was memorialized on ESPO’s enormous Old City mural.
Follow @BrettMKlein on Twitter.