by Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Singer B.J. Thomas remembers the compromise he made to work with legendary composer Burt Bacharach.
“I had been with Scepter Records for a few years,” he says.
“Their mainstay artist was Dionne Warwick, and Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote and produced most of her records. I was aware of them, and I admired them very much.”
Thomas was recording in Memphis when Scepter’s owner asked if he’d move to New York City. He and his wife, Gloria, had just married.
“He said, ‘If you’ll move to New York City, I think I can get you working with Mr. Bacharach.’ That sounded really good to me.”
It, indeed, happened. David and Bacharach wrote the whimsical “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” for the December 1969 film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” This year, the song is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
“I had just had a hit with ‘Hooked on a Feeling,’ and everything was just perfect with that song,” he says. “Burt Bacharach and Hal David are great. It was a wonderful thing to be involved in.”
Fifty years later and the singer and the song continue to be part of the musical fabric. The song has appeared in “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” “Gremlins 2: The New Batch,” “Forrest Gump,” “Spider-Man 2,” “The Simpsons,” “Arrested Development,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Family Guy” and “Feud: Bette and Joan.”
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 50 years since ‘Raindrops’ went No. 1,” Thomas says. “I’ve sold over 70 million records, but I have to say I am most appreciative of this song. It was a career changer for me when it came along. More than that, it was a life changer—a true blessing.
Propelled by the movie’s momentum, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” remained at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks.
“It was the craziest thing,” Thomas says. “By mid-March that year, ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’ sold over 2 million copies. There was a time we were selling 200,000 to 300,000 copies a day. It happened so fast. And then I was asked to perform on the Academy Awards. It was such a big production that I had a hunch ‘Raindrops’ would win the Oscar for Best Original Song; however, when it did, I still went weak in the knees. What a thrill.”
Thomas continued to perform the song until the COVID-19 pandemic cut his tour short. Thomas, who was also set to record in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in July, and Gloria have been quarantined since March 15.
“We’re not taking any chances,” he says. “We’re just looking to get through this thing and come out healthy. We’re hoping the vaccine is found and becomes available soon so we can get back on the road.
“I’m very thankful she and I are together and we have each other. With masks, I don’t understand that perception that it’s a political thing. If everyone would just observe the protocol, I think we would have been free of this thing as we speak.”
Married for 52 years, Thomas and Gloria “have always been in love, and we’re still in love.”
“We’ve had our drama and our beautiful times and some hard times, but we never gave up on each other,” he says. “She never gave up on me. We made a vow to each other to love each other and stay together. We lived up to them.“
If Gloria is his great love, music is a close second. The five-time Grammy winner and Hall of Fame inductee has sold more than 70 million albums worldwide with eight No. 1 hits and 26 Top 10 singles throughout his 50 years in the music industry.
As one of Billboard’s Top 50 Most-Played Artists Over The Past 50 Years, Thomas has scored hits with “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” “Hooked on a Feeling,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Whatever Happened to Old Fashioned Love” and “New Looks from An Old Lover.”
“Over the past 50 years, I have performed this song (‘Raindrops’) thousands of times, and I never get tired of singing it,” Thomas says. “We’re all going to experience a little rain in our lives, but if we remember we’re living a free life, then we really don’t have a thing to worry about. Besides, I have a lifetime of good memories attached to this song. You better believe when I begin touring again in 2021, I will be singing ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,’ and I’ll be loving it as we begin the next 50 years.”