Philly Soul Legend Billy Paul Dead At 81
The music world suffered yet another untimely blow as Philadephia R&B and Soul legend Billy Paul died over the weekend. Paul, who enjoyed a series of highs and lows in his long career, was 81 at the time of his passing.
Paul was born Paul Williams on Dec. 1, 1934 and raised primarily in North Philadelphia, and was influenced by female jazz greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughn among several others. Paul’s career began when he was just 11 years old, which is when he began his classical vocal training at the West Philadelphia School of Music and the Granoff School of Music.
Paul released his debut LP, Feelin’ Good At The Cadilac Club, in 1968, which was named for a famous performance venue in North Philadelphia. This would spell out a long partnership between Paul and the record mogul duo of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff of Neputne Records and Philadelphia International Records fame. Paul’s fourth LP, 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul, is when he finally broke out as an artist with the classic single “Me and Mrs. Jones” followed by the intense “Am I Black Enough For You” single.
Although Paul never reached the top of charts after the Grammy Award-winning and platinum-selling “Me and Mrs. Jones,” he enjoyed a steady and continued to tour his material in recent times until he began getting sick. After battling pancreatic cancer, Paul died last Sunday in his New Jersey home.
Several Hip-Hop productions feature samples of Paul’s music, including tracks from Gang Starr, J Dilla, Blu, Ludacris, Mary J. Blige among many others.