Insight into Thom Bell’s historic career following the death of the ‘Sound of Philadelphia’ producer at the age of 79

THOM Bell, one of the legends of Philly Soul, has died aged 79 after a long illness.

His wife, Vanessa, in a statement to AP declined to give further details, recalling the Sound of Philadelphia producer’s turbulent career.

Bell received an honorable Grammy Award in 2017


Bell received an honorable Grammy Award in 2017Photo credit: Getty
Bell was a legendary producer


Bell was a legendary producerPhoto credit: Getty


The Guardian reports that Bell was born in Kingston, Jamaica.

His family moved to Philadelphia and he grew up middle class.

He was playing the piano by the age of four, and by the age of nine he was playing the drums and flugelhorn.

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He told NPR in an interview that he grew up with music in his head.

“The teachers wanted me – the principal of the school, wanted my mother to take me to a psychiatrist because – here’s this little boy; he listens to music,” he said.

“I only heard it in my head. And I sing and tap on things. They thought something was wrong with me.

“So I had learned to keep all those thoughts to myself to this day. And you never know which lyrics or melody will go through my head.”

As a teenager, he was involved in a singing group with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, according to Vanity Fair.

He also studied piano with André Watts, an award-winning musician.


Bell got his first label from Cameo-Parkway in 1965.

He’s always had a distant tone on purpose, he told The Guardian.

“No one but me is in my brain,” he told the outlet.

“That’s why some of the things I think about are crazy – I listen to oboes and bassoons

“One arranger told me, ‘Thom Bell, black people don’t listen to this.’

“I said, ‘Why do you limit yourself to black people?’ I make music for people, I wouldn’t care if they had a horn in their head.”


Shortly after launching the label, the Delfonics hired Bell to front their run.

His top hit of that period, La Means I Love You, made the top five.

In 1972 he began working with the Spinners and produced hits like Stylistics, You Are Everything and I’ll Be Around.

Also with the group, he produced and wrote Betcha By Golly, Wow, which sold 1 million copies.

The O’Jays’ “Back Stabbers” was another big hit, with Bell emphasizing the son’s wow factor.

Other collaborators include The Delfonics, Dusty Springfield, The O’Jays, Dionne Warwick and Elton John, according to Vanity Fair.

He won Grammy’s Producer of the Year in 1975 and had previously been nominated for the Betcha By Golly, Wow Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time).

Bell received an honorary Grammy in 2017 and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 200, according to Vanity Fair.


Singers and musicians who have worked with Bell took to social media to pay tribute to him, including Elton John.

“So sad to hear of the passing of Thom Bell – wonderful producer of timeless records,” John wrote on Instagram.

“Working with him was a highlight of my career.

“Thank you for “Are You Ready For Love” and “Mama Can’t Buy You Love.” Two hits I’ll always cherish.”

In a statement to Variety, Gamble and Huff also paid tribute to their late friend.

“Tommy and I have been best friends for over 60 years,” Gamble said. “

When we first met we decided to write songs together and form a singing duo Kenny and Tommy and then our band The Romeos.

“Leon Huff and I were proud to have him on our Mighty Three music writing team that helped create our signature brand, TSOP.

“He was a great talent and my dear friend. The Gamble Huff and Bell name will live forever. Rest in peace mate!”

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Huff shared equally touching words: “Thom Bell was my favorite musician, arranger, songwriter and record producer of all time.”

“It was my appreciation, honor and pleasure to work with him creatively and as a business partner. Rest in peace.” Insight into Thom Bell’s historic career following the death of the ‘Sound of Philadelphia’ producer at the age of 79


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