Billy Paul

Billy Paul

Highest Rated: 56% Am I Black Enough for You? (2009)

Lowest Rated: 56% Am I Black Enough for You? (2009)

Birthday: Dec 01, 1934

Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Forever associated with the 1972 hit "Me and Mrs. Jones," Billy Paul was a key figure in that decade's heyday of Philadelphia soul. Born Paul Williams in North Philadelphia, he came from a musical family and first performed on local radio at age 11; he studied music as a teen and admired jazz-oriented singers like Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday. He crossed paths in early life with a number of musical giants; during an early-'50s show at Philadelphia's Club Harlem he opened for and received encouragement from saxophone great Charlie Parker. Drafted into the Army in 1957, he was posted to Germany in the same unit as Elvis Presley. He returned home after his discharge and continued singing jazz, until his discovery in 1967 by the writing/producing team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. He was among the first artists signed to their Philadelphia International label, which would produce hits (by MFSB, the O'Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes and others) through the '70s. His first album, Feelin' Good at the Cadillac Club, captured his early jazz act, but the followup Ebony Woman introduced his trademark R&B style, with Gamble & Huff's characteristically lush arrangements. "Me and Mrs. Jones" appeared two albums later on 360 Degrees of Billy Paul. With his sensual delivery and a lyric that practically celebrated an extramarital affair, the song was just daring enough for the radio and spent three weeks at Number One in late 1972. Controversial lyrics would become something of a trademark, and later singles "I'm Just a Prisoner," "Brown Baby" and "Am I Black Enough for You" were all supportive of the Black Power movement and all minor hits. He even covered Paul McCartney's "Let 'Em In," changing McCartney's rhyming names to those of black cultural figures. Returning to sex and romance, his 1975 single "Let's Make a Baby" was deemed too suggestive for radio and denounced as such by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, though it featured one of his more seductive vocals. Paul ended his stay with Philadelphia International in 1980 and his recordings became less frequent; in 1985 he made the album Lately for Total Experience, the funk-oriented label that broke the Gap Band. Paul officially retired with an onstage announcement in London in 1989, but he never stopped touring for long. Though there'd be no further hits, he made the news in 2000 when he sued Nike for using "Me & Mrs. Jones" in a commercial; he was awarded a half-million dollars in royalties. A biographical film, directed by Swedish director Göran Hugo Olsson and named for the song "Am I Black Enough for You," appeared in 2009. But Paul's profile got more of a boost when an archival live album (Golden Gate Groove: The Sound of Philadelphia Live in San Francisco 1973) was released in 2011 to mark Philadelphia International's 40th anniversary; it featured Paul on an intense nine-minute "Mrs. Jones." The singer died of pancreatic cancer at age 81 in his adopted home of New Jersey on April 24, 2016.

Highest rated movies

Am I Black Enough for You?

Filmography

Movies

Credit
56% No Score Yet Am I Black Enough for You? Unknown (Character) - 2009

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