It’d be nice to have at least a day without mourning another Great One, but alas: famed Philadelphia soul singer Billy Paul passed away this morning at his home in Blackwood, NJ. He was 80.
Beverly Gay, his co-manager, said the cause was complications with pancreatic cancer.
Everyone’s heard “Me and Mrs. Jones,” the Grammy award-winning ballad about an extramarital affair, but it’s deeper than that. Aside from the breadth of his vocal style being influenced by saxophone playing, and by his own admission being more influenced by female vocalists than male ones (“…Put on Nina Simone, Carmen McRae or Nancy Wilson, and I’d be in seventh heaven…Female vocalists just did more with their voices,” he said, and who could argue with him?), Paul was also a pioneer in civil rights songwriting. At a time when D’Angelo can name a record Black Messiah as a provocative way to challenge the way society looks at its citizens of color, it’s useful to remember where the conversation started, and more crucially where it doesn’t end, which is with popular artists who got more recognition for such acts. (NPR has a great article about this.)
After all, there are confessions–
And there are pleas–
We love them both, though. Rest in peace, Billy. You’ll be missed!