Thom Bell, Legendary Philly Soul Hitmaker, Dead at 79

Written by on December 22, 2022


Thom Bell, the Jamaican-born producer, arranger, songwriter, and pillar of ’70s Philadelphia soul, has died. The news was confirmed by Philadelphia radio station WDAS-FM. Bell was best known for his work in the “Mighty Three” with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff; together, the trio created what became known as the “Sound Of Philadelphia.” He was 79.

Born in Jamaica in 1941, Bell moved to Philadelphia as a child. He studied classical music, and as a teen sang with Gamble, Huff, and Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates. His first major break in soul music was with Cameo Records, where he worked as a session player and arranger. In the mid-’60s, Bell was introduced to the Delfonics, and he produced two songs for them, “La-La (Means I Love You)” and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time),” the second of which was nominated for a Grammy in 1970.

Bell also joined up with Gamble and Huff, who ran the record label Philadelphia International Records. The three men formed a music publishing company, Mighty Three Music, and Bell arranged for acts such as Jerry Butler, Archie Bell & The Drells, the O’Jays, and Dusty Springfield. Bell also joined Gamble and Huff’s production company.

In the ’70s, Bell produced for the Stylistics and teamed up with Philly’s own Linda Creed. Together, they became the area’s premier soul songwriting duo, writing hits such as “Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart),” “You Are Everything,” “Betcha By Golly, Wow,” “Break Up To Make Up,” “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” and “I’m Stone In Love With You.”

By 1972, Bell produced former Motown band the Spinners for Atlantic Records; the collaboration was so successful, it lasted for seven years and eight albums. Bell produced hits like “I’ll Be Around,” “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love,” “Games People Play,” and “The Rubberband Man.” In 1974, Bell won the Grammy for Best Producer Of The Year.





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