The Genius of Thom Bell

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I’ve been listening to the sounds of Thom Bell since I was a kid & have yet to grow tired of listening to his productions. I’ve compiled playlists of various producers from Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis to Gamble & Huff, but it’s Bell’s music the goes the deepest. This masterful producer, arranger, and songwriter, with a  preference for substance over style has gifted us with an unforgettable musical legacy. Though he was never in the limelight driving the ladies crazy  like Marvin Gaye or Smokey Robinson, his work behind the scenes made him arguably the most important figure of soul music throughout the 1970s. Born in Jamaica but raised in Philadelphia, Bell found his love for music very early in life while studying classical piano at the age of 5. Working diligently throughout his childhood, Bell’s recognition rose fast and he was conducting and arranging songs for local groups by his late teens. When Bell caught his first break and a major label (Cameo Records) came calling in 1967, he was only 24 years old. While Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and Sam Cooke among many others had popularized their own form of soul music before Bell’s national inception, Bell introduced a style to the world that would later be dubbed “Philly Soul”. Seeking solace in sweeping strings, endearing horns, and other grandiose orchestral arrangements, this smooth stylistic innovation brought enormous success to Bell’s name throughout the 3 major groups he worked with: The Delfonics, The Stylistics, and The Spinners. I have to say, Ronnie Dyson’s “Give In To Love” is one of my favorite tracks. How this song never became a major hit has perplexed me for the longest time. Enough talk….lay back & relax to some of my favorite Bell-crafted gems.

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