Joe Marchese did a beautiful tribute to the career of B.J. Thomas, who we lost last Saturday. You can read it here: https://theseconddisc.com/2021/05/30/in-memoriam-b-j-thomas-1942-2021/
Our hastily put together posted obit ran briefly Saturday Night …
You can view it here if you missed it:
Writers Jeff March and Marti Smiley Childs did an incredible piece on B.J. Thomas in their book “Where Have All The Pop Stars Gone? – Volume 3” that show the deep love BJ and his wife Gloria shared for 53 years. (This type of lengthy relationship with a pop star is virtually unheard of … especially one so possessed by drink and drug addiction … it just may be the truest definition of “loves of our lives” that I’ve ever seen.) She literally helped save him from the personal demons that were consuming him and put him back on the straight and narrow.
With Jeff’s kind permission, we are rerunning a segment of this article here. (You can order a copy of the book … an EXCELLENT read, by the way, as are ALL of the books in this incredible series) via the link that Jeff provided below. This particular volume also features in-depth profiles of and interviews with Anne Murray, Billy Joe Royal, The Atlanta Rhythm Section, Love, The Standells and Three Dog Night.) HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (kk)
B.J. Thomas credited his wife, Gloria, for all the good things that happened to him in his life. He first met songwriter Gloria Jean Richardson in Houston one evening in 1967 at Van’s Ballroom, where he had performed. He was relaxing with some friends of his when he first saw Gloria. “I was just so attracted to her and so beamed into her. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before,” B.J. told us. At the time she was still undergoing treatment for injuries she sustained in a serious car collision. She had been thrown head-first through her car windshield, requiring 400 stitches in her face. B.J. overlooked her injuries because he was attracted to her radiance and inner beauty. At the end of the evening, BJ offered to drive her home. She agreed. He escorted her to medical appointments, they began dating, and their friendship evolved into love. They married on December 9, 1968, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
B.J. credits Gloria for all the good things that have happened to him in his life. She supported and guided him the best she could, but his own lack of self-esteem and self-love during his years of addiction to alcohol and drugs was something he had to overcome in order to heal completely.
“I grew up in an alcoholic family. My dad was an alcoholic. He was absolutely the worst alcoholic I’ve ever come in contact with. He had such a serious problem with it that he never even came close to having any control over it. So I grew up with that, and my dad died young – he was 52, and he was just a guy, but it was so hard to have a relationship with him or any meaningful communication with him because of his problem. So I kind of became like my father. If the right thing was the easiest thing to do, I wouldn’t do it, I’d do the other thing,” B.J. said as he reflected on that period in his life.
“I was just very lucky that Gloria and I met, and we got married. She could always see me for who I was. I never could see it, but she could see it. She would talk to me and make me think maybe there is another way, because I was getting to a situation where I was OD-ing quite often. We did some self-help things and we put a lot of work into it. It was right after I had ‘Wrong Song,’ that I got sober, and I told Gloria, ‘I can’t continue in the business the way I am. I’m so tired of it,’ and she was, too. We were living in New York at that time, so we came back to Texas and that’s when the change happened, and we devoted our time to raising the family. I would work maybe 20 to 30 nights per year. We just devoted time to the family, and mainly it was because of Gloria.”
B.J. attributes the spiritual awakening that he ultimately underwent to Gloria’s fortitude and guidance.
“I had been through years of drug addiction and alcoholism, and it had a real major effect on my family, on me personally, and on the people that I loved. I did have a spiritual awakening,” said B.J., who told us that he became sober in 1975, when he was 33 years of age.
“We’re all God’s creatures, everyone on this planet. So we believe in a whole different sphere of spirituality. And a lot of people believe that. We’re not totally locked into one religious god better than another religious god. We believe in treating other people the way we want them to treat us,” he said.
“You know if I had never had a hit record, I would still have a beautiful life,” B.J. added. “I never would have made it without Gloria, and we have these [three] beautiful children and [four] grandchildren. I’m really proud of the music, but who I am really is just a person. I’m a man who loves his wife, and cherishes his children and grandchildren, and that’s just who I am. I didn’t realize that until we had that spiritual awakening.”
— Excerpts from the book “Where Have All the Pop Stars Gone? — Volume 3” by Marti Smiley Childs and Jeff March (EditPros LLC, 2016).
Please see https://www.editpros.com/WHATPSG_Vol_3.html for paperback and
e-book ordering information.
In addition to BJ’s fourteen Top 40 Hits that we told you about on Saturday Night, he also had a very impressive run on Billboard’s Country Chart in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s.
Here is a list of B.J. Thomas’ Biggest Country Hits:
1975 – Hey, Won’t You Play Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song (#1)
1975 – Help Me Make It To My Rockin’ Chair (#37)
1978 – Everybody Loves A Love Song (#25)
1981 – Some Love Songs Never Die (#27)
1981 – I Recall A Gypsy Woman (#22)
1983 – Whatever Happened To Old Fashioned Love (#1)
1983 – New Looks From An Older Lover (#1)
1984 – Two Car Garage (#3)
1984 – The Whole World’s In Love When You’re Lonely (#10)
1984 – Rock and Roll Shoes (with Ray Charles) #14
1985 – The Girl Most Likely To (#17)
>>>So sad to hear about B.J. Thomas ... ALWAYS a favorite of mine. He sounded so determined to beat this thing ... but I guess he never really had a chance. (kk)
I agree. BJ sounded so upbeat that he’d be around for a while. I heard him sing virtually during the pandemic on You Tube and his voice still sounded very strong.
I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite B.J. Thomas song … I just loved so many of them …
But these two would make my list for sure …
A friend sent this to me the other day. I just had to share it with you and all the music lovers and musicians out there in FH-Land.
I read up on the story of "Sandy" and it appears to match the story below.
The attached video of Art and Paul is hard to watch without getting misty.
Hello Darkness My Old Friend, a Simon and Garfunkel song inspired by a college roommate who went blind, reveals an untold story. One of the best-loved songs of all time.
Simon & Garfunkel's hit The Sound Of Silence topped the US charts and went platinum in the UK. It was named among the 20 most performed songs of the 20th century, included in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and provided the unforgettable soundtrack to 1967 film classic The Graduate. But to one man, The Sound Of Silence means much more than just a No 1 song on the radio with its poignant opening lines: "Hello Darkness my old friend, I've come to talk with you again."
Sanford "Sandy" Greenberg is Art Garfunkel's best friend, and reveals in a moving new memoir, named after that lyric, that the song was a touching tribute to their undying bond, and the singer's sacrifice that saved Sandy's life when he unexpectedly lost his sight.
"He lifted me out of the grave," says Sandy, aged 79, who recounts his plunge into sudden blindness, and how Art Garfunkel's selfless devotion gave him reason to live again.
Sandy and Arthur, as Art was then known, met during their first week as students at the prestigious Columbia University in New York. "A young man wearing an Argyle sweater and corduroy pants and blond hair with a crew cut came over and
said, 'Hi, I'm Arthur Garfunkel'," Sandy recalls.
They became roommates, bonding over a shared taste in books, poetry and music. "Every night Arthur and I would sing. He would play his guitar and I would be the DJ. The air was always filled with music."
Still teenagers, they made a pact to always be there for each other in times of trouble. "If one was in extremis, the other would come to his rescue," says Sandy. They had no idea their promise would be tested so soon.
Just months later, Sandy recalls: "I was at a baseball game and suddenly my eyes became cloudy and my vision became unhinged. Shortly after that, darkness descended." Doctors diagnosed conjunctivitis, assuring it would pass. But days later, Sandy went blind, and doctors realized that glaucoma had destroyed his optic nerves.
Sandy was the son of a rag-and-bone man. His family, Jewish immigrants in Buffalo, New York, had no money to help him, so he dropped out of college, gave up his dream of becoming a lawyer, and plunged into depression. "I wouldn't see
anyone, I just refused to talk to anybody," says Sandy. "And then unexpectedly Arthur flew in, saying he had to talk to me. He said, 'You're gonna come back, aren't you?' "I said 'No, There's no conceivable way.' "He was pretty insistent, and
finally said, 'Look, I don't think you get it. I need you back there. That's the pact we made together: we would be there for the other in times of crises. I will help you'."
Together they returned to Columbia University, where Sandy became dependent on Garfunkel's support. Art would walk Sandy to class, bandage his wounds when he fell, and even filled out his graduate school applications.
Garfunkel called himself "Darkness" in a show of empathy. The singer explained: "I was saying, 'I want to be together where you are, in the black'." Sandy recalls: "He would come in and say, 'Darkness is going to read to you now.' "Then he would take me to class and back. He would take me around the city. He altered his entire life so that it would accommodate me."
Garfunkel would talk about Sandy with his high-school friend Paul Simon, from Queens, New York, as the folk rock duo struggled to launch their musical careers, performing at local parties and clubs. Though Simon wrote the song, the lyrics
to The Sound of Silence are infused with Garfunkel's compassion as Darkness, Sandy's old friend.
Guiding Sandy through New York one day, as they stood in the vast forecourt of bustling Grand Central Station, Garfunkel said that he had to leave for an assignment, abandoning his blind friend alone in the rush-hour crowd, terrified, stumbling and falling. "I cut my forehead" says Sandy. "I cut my shins. My socks were bloodied. I had my hands out and bumped into a woman's breasts. It was a horrendous feeling of shame and humiliation. "I started running forward, knocking over coffee cups and briefcases, and finally I got to the local train to Columbia University. It was the worst couple of hours in my life."
Back on campus, he bumped into a man, who apologized. "I knew that it was Arthur's voice," says Sandy. "For a moment I was enraged, and then I understood what happened: that his colossally insightful, brilliant yet wildly risky strategy had
worked." Garfunkel had not abandoned Sandy at the station, but had followed him the entire way home, watching over him. "Arthur knew it was only when I could prove to myself I could do it that I would have real independence," says Sandy.
"And it worked, because after that I felt that I could do anything.
"That moment was the spark that caused me to live a completely different life, without fear, without doubt. For that I am tremendously grateful to my friend." Sandy not only graduated, but went on to study for a master's degree at Harvard and Oxford.
While in Britain, he received a phone call from his friend - and with it the chance to keep his side of their pact. Garfunkel wanted to drop out of architecture school and record his first album with Paul Simon, but explained: "I need $400 to get
started." Sandy, by then married to his high school sweetheart, says: "We had $404 in our current account. I said, 'Arthur, you will have your cheque.' "It was an instant reaction, because he had helped me restart my life, and his request was the first time that I had been able to live up to my half of our solemn covenant."
The 1964 album, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, was a critical and commercial flop, but one of the tracks was The Sound Of Silence, which was released as a single the following year and went to No 1 across the world. "The Sound Of Silence" meant a lot, because it started out with the words 'Hello darkness' and this was Darkness singing, the guy who read to me after I returned to Columbia blind," says Sandy.
Simon & Garfunkel went on to have four smash albums, with hits including Mrs. Robinson, The Boxer, and Bridge Over Troubled Waters. Amazingly, Sandy went on to extraordinary success as an inventor, entrepreneur, investor, presidential
adviser and philanthropist. The father of three, who launched a $3 million prize to find a cure for blindness, has always refused to use a white cane or guide dog. "I don't want to be 'the blind guy'," he says. "I wanted to be Sandy Greenberg, the human being."
Six decades later the two men remain best friends, and Garfunkel credits Sandy with transforming his life. With Sandy, "my real life emerged," says the singer. "I became a better guy in my own eyes and began to see who I was – somebody who gives to a friend. "I blush to find myself within his dimension. My friend is the gold standard of decency." Says Sandy: "I am the luckiest man in the world."
An interesting story … and one I’d not heard before.
As we mentioned the other day, the Disturbed version of “The Sounds Of Silence” has jumped to the top of my list of all-time favorite cover songs … it is just so incredibly powerfully … even after repeated watchings, I still get goosebumps every time I see it. (Paul Simon has to be EXTREMELY proud of what they’ve done with his song!) kk