Thom Bell, celebrated producer and songwriter, dies at 79

Thom Bell, a renowned and well-respected producer and songwriter, has died at the age of 79. The talented arranger and prolific artiste was one of the founding fathers of the well-known Philly Soul subgenre.

He reportedly worked with countless legends and acclaimed artists, including The Delfonics, The Spinners, and The O’Jays. He wrote and arranged all-time favourite singles like “I’ll Be Around” and “Betcha By Golly Wow” by The Stylistics, “Backstabber” by the O’Jays, and produced “Mama Can’t Buy You Love” by Elton John.

Bell won a Grammy for Producer of the Year in 1975. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006.

Cassically trained as a musician, he was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He moved to Philadelphia as a child, and as a teenager sang with Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Daryl Hall–the latter of whom went on to a legendary career with Hall & Oates. Bell’s first big break in soul music came with Cameo Records in Philadelphia where he worked as a session player and arranger.

In a 2021 interview with Consequence, Bell reflected on his style, saying, “When I write, I make sure that my introductions grab you from the first note. I write to grab you; to give you my true feelings. I don’t want to tell you a love story and only tell you part of a love story. I want to give a complete story. That’s how can always tell one of my arrangements.”


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