Thinking About The Music Of Thomas “Thom” Randolph Bell / January 26, 1943 – December 22, 2022

Thom Bell passed away just before Christmas. When I was a kid his songs, productions, and arrangements, were forever playing on the radio. His were sweet songs, focussed almost solely on romance and love. On the street where I lived, the music he made, with The Spinners and The Stylistics especially, formed the soundtrack to our parents` house parties, and later scored my own first slow dances. Stuff like Diana and Marvin singing, You Are Everything has me right back there. Fumbling with a date, up against a fridge, in a kitchen in Croydon. 

Working with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the founders of Philadelphia International Records, and often collaborating with singer / songwriter Linda Creed, Thom had a hand in so many hits that not only define a pop part of the early `70s, but have since become standards, and covered countless times…. Betcha By Golly Wow, I`ll Be Around, La La La Means I Love You, People Make The World Go Round, Stone In Love With You, You Make Me Feel Brand New

His arrangements, however, were / are the definitive versions, even for pieces penned by others… Here I Go Again, Could It Be I’m Falling In Love, You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart) , and, of course, Back Stabbers. 

As I got older, and teenage rebellion blew my mind, I discarded Thom’s work as “chart stuff”, and way too saccharine. Some of these masterpieces I thought I`d totally forgotten, but listening again, they`re deeply engrained memories, that have, in their own way, mutated and modified my DNA. They promised a love so perfect, so pure, so complete, instead of fleeting, fickle and cheap, that it always seemed out of reach. Certainly in the South London that I grew up in. Ghetto Child felt like a theme tune. My posher mates, from Norbury, would sing it to me in chorus, taking the piss. 

Ghetto Child resize

Thom Bell, thank you for the music. Rest In Peace.

Archie Bell & The Drells / Here I Go Again

Honey & The Bees / Love Addict

The Stylistics / Children Of The Night

The Delfonics / Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time?

Johnny Mathis / Life Is A Song Worth Singing

Alton Ellis / La La La Means I Love You

Otis Gayle / I’ll Be Around

Kellee Patterson / Stop, Look & Listen To Your Heart

Dee Dee Bridgewater / People Make The World Go Round

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