And while we're on the subject of B.J. Thomas ... I'll write about one of his songs that brings me to tears at the first note, his gorgeous cover of Hank Williams' I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry.
"Never listen to this sad song after cocktail hour," says one YouTube commenter. Probably good advice, unless you feel like having your heart ripped out.
Growing up, country music was a musical genre that was largely relegated to a subculture many associated with Hee Haw and cariacaturish women with gigantic wigs. Consequently, my primary exposure to its worthy songs came through more contemporary artists like B.J. Thomas who took Williams' version and made it his own.
A more pleasing singing voice you couldn't hope to find. Thomas began honing that voice in church as a child in Houston, and the rich, gospel-esque tones that I've always responded to must have been nourished in that environment. He was lead singer for a group called the Triumphs when I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry was first recorded, which led to his being signed by a national label. With national distribution, it became a Top 10 hit.
Thomas achieved more enduring stardom when as a solo artist he released Hooked on a Feeling and Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head. The story goes that Thomas was handed the opportunity to record the soundtrack version of the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid song thanks to Dionne Warwick, who was a fellow artist on Thomas' record label and brought him to Burt Bacharach's attention as he was casting about for the right singer. (Bob Dylan and Ray Stevens were among those who turned down the opportunity, apparently.)