“Me & Mrs. Jones” Philadelphia Soul Icon Billy Paul Passes Away
In the rich canon of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Soul, Jazz, and R&B music, Billy Paul is one of the most esteemed writers, and most powerful voices. Born Paul Williams, the Grammy Award-winning singer a native of the City of Brotherly Love, died yesterday (April 24) at his home in southern New Jersey. According to The Associated Press, he was 80 years old.
While known largely for his sole #1 hit, 1972’s “Me and Mrs. Jones,” Paul’s discography stretches to include more than 14 studio albums. Dating back to the late 1960s, Billy worked with hit-making team Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff, and released his most noteworthy work through their Philadelphia International label. His solo debut, Feelin’ Good At The Cadillac Club would help launch Gamble’s original eponymous label, with lauded moments such as the Soul-savvy cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright).”
Following the success of his—and his label’s first #1 in 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul, the crooner notably released “Am I Black Enough For You?” as the next single. Later sampled by Schoolly D (under the same name) and Kidz In The Hall, the record spoke bluntly about early 1970s race relations, rather than catering to the mainstream.
Later in his career, Paul’s 1975 single “Let’s Make A Baby” was challenged by Reverend Jesse Jackson and Operation PUSH for its obscene insinuations. Radio stations were urged to ban the single.
Throughout his career, Paul would appear on stage and record with the likes of Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Teddy Pendergrass, and Curtis Mayfield. He would serve the US Army in the same station as Elvis Presley.
Billy Paul’s music has been sampled extensively, appearing on standout songs by M.O.P., Gang Starr, Scarface, Fashawn, Ludacris, and Mary J. Blige. On M.O.P.’s 2000 Warriorz track, “Face Off,” producer DJ Premier split the beats for Lil Fame and Billy Danze, notably using elements of “I’m Just A Prisoner” and “It’s Too Late,” consecutive tracks from 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul.
Although Billy Paul has not released an album since the late 1980s, the singer frequently performed and recorded feature vocals into the 2010s.
Ambrosia For Heads extends condolences to the family, friends, and fans of Billy Paul.