‘Sound of Philadelphia’ pioneer Thom Bell dies at 79

Thom Bell, the Grammy-winning producer, writer, and choreographer who helped perfect the 1970s “Sound of Philadelphia,” has died aged 79.

Vanessa, ell’s wife, said he died Thursday at his home in Bellingham, Washington, after a long illness.

A native of Jamaica who moved to Philadelphia as a child, Bell drew on classical influences from his youth and beloved composers like Oscar winner Ennio Morricone to add cinematic scale and grandeur. into the gospel-style harmonies of the Spinners, Stylistics, Delfonics, and others.

Few producers-arrangers can match Bell in setting the mood—whether the strings and trumpets kick off Spinners’ Mighty Love, the deadly piano roll at the start of O’ Jays’ Back Stabbers or Betcha By Golly’s happy oboe, Well, a soulful dreamland suggests a Walt Disney movie scored by Smokey Robinson.

In short, he was responsible for everything that happened to me in my career Russell Thompkins Jr.stylish singer

“No one else is in my brain but me, which is why some of the things I think about are crazy — I hear oboes, bassoons and English trumpets,” he told recordcollectormag.com in 2020. .

“A arranger told me ‘Thom Bell, the Negro doesn’t hear that.’ I said, ‘Why limit yourself to black people? I make music for people’.”

Bell, often collaborating with lyricist Linda Creed, worked on more than 30 gold records from 1968-1978 when Philadelphia became the center of soul music much like Detroit and Motown Records in the 1960s.

He was an independent producer but was crucial to the Philadelphia International Records empire built by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the publishing company they founded together called Mighty Three Music.

Bell’s other hits include Delfonics’ La-La (Meaning I Love You), Stylistics’ You Make Me Feel Brand New, Joe Simon’s Drowning In The Sea Of Love and Sir Elton John’s Mama Can’t Buy You Love .

Near to

Thom Bell has worked with stars including Sir Elton John (Ian West/PA)

He is widely recognized for his revival of Spinners, a previous Motown play that was unsuccessful for many years. Bell took on them in the early 1970s and helped create hits like I’ll Be Around, Ghetto Child, and The Rubberband Man.

The Spinners’ chart-topping Then Came You featured Dionne Warwick, who doubted the fast-paced ballad would catch on.

Bell tore the dollar bill in half and demanded that Warwick agree that anyone who guessed the song wrong would have to put an apology on half of their money and send it to the other person. Bell will keep the signed letter he received from Warwick for a long time.

He has also worked on a number of personal favorites, such as an album with Anthony Gourdine of Little Anthony of the Imperials, one of his early influences, and I’m Coming Home and Mathis Is … for Johnny Mathis, whom Bell calls the most talented singer he’s ever worked with – “the pound”.

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Bell won the 1975 Grammy for best producer, but within a few years, Philadelphia’s sound was overtaken by other trends.

He had only a handful of hits in the 1980s and beyond, including Deniece Williams’ Gonna Take A Miracle and James Ingram’s I Don’t Have The Heart.

He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006 and received an honorary Grammy in 2017. Three years later, his work was featured in the anthology Ready Or Not: Philly Soul Arrangements & Productions , 1965-1978.

“In short, he was responsible for everything that happened to me in my career,” Stylistics lead singer Russell Thompkins Jr. told the Seattle Times in 2018. “He helped me. Know your vocal range, find the best way to sing a song. Everyone is his tool. It doesn’t matter if you’re a singer, trombonist or studio engineer. You are part of his construction.

One of 10 siblings, Thomas Randolph Bell grew up in a family where both his parents were talented musicians and only listened to classical works.

He’s been taking piano lessons since he was 5 and thinking about becoming a conductor, but he can’t get over the sounds he’s imagining in his head – the high notes played to his own tenor. her – or discover on the radio, especially Little Anthony and the Imperials Pillows of Tears.

He told the Seattle Times: “I loved the whole production process. “I was listening to background music, bass, more than just the lyrics.”

https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/music/sound-of-philadelphia-pioneer-thom-bell-dies-aged-79-42241364.html ‘Sound of Philadelphia’ pioneer Thom Bell dies at 79

Fry Electronics Team

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