American soul singer Billy Paul has sadly died at his home in New Jersey, at the age of 81. He leaves behind an impressive career that spanned 60 years, during which he worked prolifically with the song-writing team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff.
Best known for his 1972 hit ‘Me and Mrs Jones’, which won a Grammy award and reached No.1 in the US, Billy performed alongside music legends Charlie Parker and Nina Simone in his youth. Artists such as Michael Bublé, Stevie Wonder and Hall & Oates have covered ‘Me and Mrs Jones’, which was written about an extra-marital affair.
A statement on his website revealed that he died on Sunday 24 April of a “serious medical condition”. According to NME music magazine, this condition was pancreatic cancer. Billy, who was born as Paul Williams, helped to shape the course of modern R&B music with his infectious tunes.
He had a distinctive stage presence with his big glasses, bushy beard and beaming smile and his 1972 hit soon became a timeless classic, that is played on radio stations around the globe, to this day.
Gamble and Huff have paid tribute to the inspirational figure. In a statement they called him “one of the great artists to come out of Philly and to be celebrated worldwide”. They also said “Our proudest moment with Billy was the recording of the salacious smash Me and Mrs Jones. In our view, it is one of the greatest love songs ever recorded”.
In 2003, Billy won a £250,534 lawsuit for royalties owed for the hit song from 1994 to 2002, by Assorted Music. The company implied that it was an accounting issue and not a case of trying to dwindle anyone out of money. Billy is survived by his wife, Blanche Williams.