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Thom Bell, Philadelphia Soul Icon, Dies at 79

todayDecember 22, 2022

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Thom Bell, the iconic pioneer of Philadelphia soul in the 1970s, passed away on Thursday (Dec. 22) in Bellingham, Washington. He was 79 years old.

The news was first reported by Philly R&B radio station 105.3 WDAS-FM, with host Patty Jackson saying, “We remember Thom Bell: record producer, arranger and songwriter known for his work with Linda Creed, Gamble and Huff, the many hits, the creators of Philly soul.” The station also paid special tribute to the late musician on its website by sharing a video of the Stylistics’ 1972 Bell-produced single “People Make the World Go Round.”

Bell’s attorney confirmed his passing to Billboard, saying, “Thom Bell left an indelible and everlasting mark on the history of popular music, but even more so, he will be remembered by all who knew him as a kind and loving friend and family man. The music world has truly lost one of the greats.”

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Nile Rodgers also took to social media to pay his respects to Bell, tweeting, “#RIPThomBell He is one of the greatest writers and producers of all time. My condolences go out to his family and friends. He was the architect of the relationship between #BernardEdwards & me as we were the band for the group New York City (I’m Doing Fine Now) a Thom Bell smash.”

Bell, who was born in 1943 and studied classical music when he was a child, was known for working with early R&B acts like the Delfonics, the Spinners and Deniece Williams. With Linda Creed, he co-wrote a number of soul classics like “Betcha By Golly, Wow,” “You Are Everything,” “You Make Me Feel Brand New” and “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart).” In the late ’70s and early ’80s, he also co-wrote and produced tracks for a young Elton John including “Are You Ready for Love” and “Mama Can’t Buy You Love.”

In 1975, Bell became the inaugural Grammy winner for producer of the year, non-classical. He had previously been nominated for co-writing the Delfonics’ “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” and arranging the Stylistics’ “Betcha By Golly, Wow.” In 2017, the Recording Academy presented him with a trustees award — the equivalent of a lifetime achievement award for non-performers.

He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006 as well as the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum a decade later.

Bell is survived by wife Vanessa and his children, Royal, Troy, Tia, Mark, Cybell and Christopher.

Read tributes to Bell below.

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