Not a big social media dude, but when certain things from certain people hit, they hit hard, and they hit home. There from Instagram, sourced by one of the most reputable people in the world of Black music, Dyana Williams. For perspective, Dyana Williams is a four-decade veteran in radio and on television and co-founder of the Pennsylvania-based nonprofit advocacy organization, the International Association of African American Music Foundation, among many laurels. Her post read, “Classic, award-winning songwriter arranger and producer, frequent collaborator of lyricist, Linda Creed, Thomas Randolph Bell aka Thom Bell has transitioned. One of the architects of The Sound of Philadelphia TSOP, Mighty Three music, partner of Gamble & Huff. Soundtrack to our lives with music from The Stylistics, The Delfonics, The Spinners, Denice Williams, Dionne Warwick, Johnny Mathis. As a member of our extended family, heartfelt love to Thom’s immediate family, friends and music lovers of his classic songs.”

Songwriter/producer Thom Bell, as part of the trifecta alongside Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff known as the Mighty Three who co-created The Sound of Philadelphia, one of the greatest musical movements in history, has died at age 79. The remaining two-thirds of the trio offered the following, “Tommy and I have been best friends for over 60 years,” said Kenny Gamble in a press statement. “When we first met, we decided to start writing songs together and form a singing duo ‘Kenny and Tommy’ and then our band The Romeos…He was a great talent and my dear friend. Rest in peace buddy.”  

“Thom Bell was my favorite musician, arranger, songwriter and music producer of all time!” added Leon Huff. “It was my esteemed honor and pleasure to work with him creatively and as a business partner. Rest in peace.”

In an interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air in 2006, Bell explained the origins of his eventual path. “I studied to be a concert pianist [classical piano] from the age of 6 to 22. By the time I was 18 I found that articulating somebody else’s music was not quite what I wanted to do. I got bored with that, I was hearing different chords, different progressions and different variations of the themes that I was doing but you couldn’t really change the work of the masters’ creations. My sound was a sound in my mind, because until I was about 13, I hadn’t heard the radio so what I heard was strictly from the symphonic end.” So instead of changing the creations of the masters, he unleashed his creativity and as an arranger, producer, conductor and songwriter became one.  

For his work, Bell received the ultimate plaudits, having won Producer of the Year at the 1975 Grammy Awards and an induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006; he had top ten pop recordings including Deniece Williams’ remake of The Royalettes’ “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle,” Elton John with “Mama Can’t Buy You Love,” as well as James Ingram’s #1 1990 hit “I Don’t Have the Heart.” While those accomplishments were nice résumé fillers, it’s the apex level of pure unadulterated soul achieved times over for various artists of various decades. We’ll frame it this way: one of his creations, along with the great Linda Creed, was recorded by a mainstream actress, Connie Stevens, given its standard classic stamp when the Stylistics covered it, and later yielded renditions by Johnny Mathis, Aaron Neville, Dionne Warwick, Smokey Robinson, Phyliss Hyman and hell PRINCE, who at the conclusion of the song in his way revealed that he couldn’t have expressed those sentiments any better. That song was “Betcha By Golly Wow.”  MIC DROP!

Samples and interloping by the likes of Missy, Lauren Hill, Mary J Blige, Jay Z, Nas, Pac, Snoop and the list continues will keep his name ringing, but album cuts ranging from a pre-teen Michael Jackson (“People Make The World Go Round”), Angela Winbush (“Baby Hold On”) and Phyliss Hyman (“You Just Don’t Know”) provide the depth of his material.  

Always wondered what would have happened if a record executive had utilized the Thom Bell genius and paired him with one of the most underserved, unheralded falsettos of our time, TCD, and the group the Force MDs. Hopefully they’re introducing themselves at the pearly gates.

Over and out. Bidding adieu to 2022, looking to live the bon bon vie in 2023. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.

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