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  Billy Paul
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Click below for a Billy Paul sample:

Going East

 

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Billy Paul was by far the most serious artist on the Philly International roster.   His repetoire ranged from black pride anthems and discussions on slavery ("Going East," "Black Baby," "Bring the Family Back") to adult-oriented takes on romance and relationships ("Me and Mrs. Jones," "Thanks For Saving My Life").  On a label renowned for its appeal to all demographics, Billy Paul made no concessions to the kids; he was a man's man.

That is work was so distinct from the O'Jays or Blue Notes is attributable mainly to his established jazz credentials prior to joining Gamble and Huff.  Born and raised in Philly, Paul Williams debuted as a jazz singer at the age of 11 and worked with John Coltrane before forming his own trio in the late 1950s.  His recording "Ebony Woman" failed to register on the charts, but it did bring him to the attention of Kenny Gamble, who started tracking his apperances in local clubs. 

Paul signed with him in 1970, issuing East the following year.  The title song, a tale dealing with the legacy of slavery and the longing to return to Africa, marked him a unique stylist from the onset, miles apart from the Jerry Butler hits Gamble and Huff were producing at the same time.

"Me and Mrs. Jones" was the national breakthrough, hitting the top spot on the pop and soul charts.  Its success would not be repeated; singles were not really his forte because his topics did not adapt well to 3 minute songs.  Most of his other 45s made the lower regions of the charts, with "Let's Make a Baby" and "Thanks for Saving My Life" cracking the top 20.

His albums are always worth seeing for the cover art.  

Billy Paul's Deepest Grooves

Going East (Gamble, 1970)
Proved to be a one shot effort, but they dropped enough bombs here to ensure classic

360 Degrees of Billy Paul (Philadelphia International, 1972)

War of the Gods (Philadelphia International, 1973)

Feeling Good at the Cadillac Club (Philadelphia International, 1974)

Let Em In (Philadelphia International, 1977)

First Class (Philadelphia International, 1979)

Me And Mrs. Jones: The Best Of Billy Paul (Sony, 1999)

Copyright 2001 B.Graff.  All rights reserved.

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