Raindrops Keep Fallin ‘on My Head frontman BJ Thomas dies at 78

Listen to BJ Thomas’ full interview on our “Beyond the Fame” podcast. He won an Oscar for his…

Listen to BJ Thomas’ full interview on our podcast “Beyond fame.”

WTOP’s Jason Fraley Remembers BJ Thomas (Part 1)

He won an Oscar for his hit “Raindrops Keep Fallin ‘on My Head” (1970).

Five-time Grammy winner BJ Thomas died of lung cancer at age 78 on Saturday.

“It’s a highlight for me,” Thomas told WTOP in 2020. “Actually, the song was released in October 69 and it wasn’t until the movie came out for Christmas that the radio wanted it. recording. … January 3, 1970, it was number 1, so a great experience.

He was of course referring to the iconic Western buddy “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969), which won four Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay for William Goldman. The song’s bubbly bike scene signals a light tone.

“They cycle like normal people,” Thomas said. “Mr Redford said they were making an art film.… The score was different. It wasn’t done with instruments for the most part, but with a ‘ba ba ba’, sort of vocalizations. … I’ll give it to him. It was kind of an art film, but it was also one of the best westerns ever made.

The lyrics were written by songwriting icon Hal David: “So I just talked to myself in the sun, and said I didn’t like the way he did things, sleeping at work . “

“They had asked Hal to write a frivolous song, just kind of a throwaway song, and he said, ‘BJ, I don’t write frivolous songs,’” Thomas said.

“He wrote something that, apparently on the surface, didn’t say much, but in the long run… he said a very significant thing that the rain is falling on you, but if you are free, nothing worries you.

David’s lyrics were set to music by legendary composer Burt Bacharach.

“Burt Bacharach is obviously one of the greatest composers of all time,” said Thomas. “It was a unique melody. I knew instinctively from the start that his compositions and their songs weren’t things you played with. You needed to sing it as it was written.

To this day, he’s impressed with the team of on-screen buddies of Paul Newman and Robert Redford, who graced the role by loaning the name to the Sundance Film Festival.

“It was one of the best buddy movies of all time and it has a lot of classic lines,” Thomas said. “It’s funny, I recently read a book by Burt Bacharach. He said he had never met Paul Newman, Robert Redford or director George Roy Hill – and neither have I! I thought over the years I should have at least met these guys.

He says it almost happened several times, but it never really happened.

“I’ve played at Park City a few times, one at a private event where the placement of Mr. Redford’s name was on a table in front, but it never came,” Thomas said. “Having never met the guys, they’re sort of up there in idol territory. … But I was involved with him in a wonderful movie, so I feel like I met him.

Indeed, they are frozen in time together like the last freeze frame, quite a feat for a young boy growing up in Houston, Texas with a father who listened to country radio.

“My dad loved country music,” Thomas said. “I grew up with the Grand Ole Opry on the radio, but when I was about 12 or 13 I fell in love with Jackie Wilson and Bobby Bland. I was very passionate about R&B. … I have always loved music. They tell me I sang even when I was a baby. I have always loved music, I sang everywhere, I sang in church.

At 26, Thomas recorded his groundbreaking hit “Hooked on a Feeling” in 1968, which was later taken up by Blue Swede with an “ooga-chaka” intro in 1974.

“To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled that someone covered my record so quickly. … But I don’t think you can deny that it was a nice, big production, ”Thomas said. “It was a # 1 record and my boyfriend, Mark James, wrote it and he made a ton of money with it, so it’s okay.

Thomas found another hit with “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song,” which won the Grammy for Best Country Song in 1976.

“I never really played on country radio until I played ‘Wrong Song’,” Thomas said. “It was the national record # 1 as well as the pop record # 1.

“I never tried to do one genre of music in each genre. I was naturally a product of Top 40 radio, where they broadcast everything on the same station. This is how I approached music.

Thomas has just turned 78 but cannot play due to the pandemic.

“We’re closed now,” Thomas said. “I had a session scheduled in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, for July 15 that we had to postpone due to the virus. … We will do this as soon as we have the vaccine. … No one really knows when we’ll be free to go. It probably looks like the end of the year or next year. “

Looking back on his career, what does he want people to remember him?

“I hope they see me as someone who really believed in what he sang,” Thomas said. “It’s a matter of soul and emotion for me, so I tried to put that on. I only tried to record things that I really believe in and really feel. I just hope that I remember as a good father, a good husband and the music will take care of [itself]. “

Still, he would like to correct the record on one thing.

“They always confuse me with these light pop singers and I’ve never seen my career like that,” Thomas said. “I think I made some deep and quite meaningful songs. … I value the effort and the emotion that I put in my music much more than people [today], but it’s music. It’s always about the next guy, which is new and, hey, that’s how the music is. I also like new guys.

Will “Raindrops” still be played in 50 years?

“It could be,” Thomas said. “It’s in the Hall of Fame. It’s in the Grammy Hall of Fame – Mr. Bacharach and Hal and I and the record – so it’s there to remember. The music is constantly changing and good songs will always be good songs. … If we remember it, it’s great. Hope so, but we’ll have to leave that in the future.

WTOP’s Jason Fraley Remembers BJ Thomas (Part 2)

Listen to BJ Thomas’ full interview on our podcast “Beyond fame.”

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