Soul and jazz singer Billy Paul has died at the age of 80 at his home in Blackwood, New Jersey, his co-manager, Beverly Gay, told The Associated Press. Paul, 80, had been diagnosed recently with pancreatic cancer. The Philly native was known for his large glasses and beard.
Paul was famous for his #1 hit record and Philadelphia soul classic “Me and Mrs. Jones”. The song was about a extramarital affair who was signed with songwriter and producer tandem Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International Records who also released music by the O’Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and Lou Rawls. Many fans best remember the moment when Paul’s otherwise subtle vocals jump as they reach the title words, stretching out “Me” and “And” into multiple syllables and repeating “Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Jones.”
The song shot him to brief super stardom top the charts in 1972 and earning him a Grammy the following year for best male rhythm ‘n blues performance. His early albums with Gamble and Huff, including “Ebony Woman” and “Going East,” sold modestly, before “Me and Mrs. Jones”
Billy Paul struggled to find the same success after that. Radio stations resisted his more socially conscious follow-up song, “Am I Black Enough for You” and the Rev. Jesse Jackson was among those who objected to the explicit “Let’s Make a Baby.”
Paul’s voice made him “one of the great artists to come out of Philly and to be celebrated worldwide,” Gamble and Huff said in a statement late Sunday.
Billy Paul is survived by his wife, Blanche Williams, with whom he had two children.