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Intersection of Life and Faith

B.J. Thomas

  • Devlin Donaldson
  • 1998 12 Dec
  • COMMENTS
B.J. Thomas
{{B J Thomas}} is a phenomenally successful recording artist. Between 1964 and 1976 he had a string of hits that any artist would envy. Songs like Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, Hooked On a Feeling, and Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song among many others helped drive him to the top of the charts over and over again.

Although very successful, like many such stories, Thomas fell into the pit of substance abuse and drug addiction. Then in 1976, Thomas had a miraculous born again experience which resulted in a miraculous deliverance from drug addiction as well as giving Thomas life eternal.

Quickly following this dramatic change in his life, Thomas wrote his autobiography, Home Where I Belong, and released his first Christian album of the same name. The title song, written by CCM veteran artist Pat Terry soon became a signature song for Thomas. I thought when I recorded Home Where I Belong it would be my biggest pop hit yet, says Thomas. It was so mainstream. I had just had a number one with Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song and I thought, Man, my audience is going to love this.

Well, the Christian audience did. Home Where I Belong, was a huge success in the Christian market.

While Home Where I Belong didnt catch fire with Thomas pop audience, Thomas old songs created great controversy with his Christian audience. My life changing born again experience freed me from the grip of addiction, explains Thomas. It never occurred to me to become a minister or start carrying my Bible on the stage or get my hair cut or to not do Raindrops or Hooked on a Feeling. And that is what got me in real trouble. What I used to say back then was that I wasnt a Christian entertainer, I was an entertainer who became a Christian. A lot of the things that they wanted us to do I never could really understand.

From the time {{B J Thomas}} began performing before Christian audiences until the early eighties when he stopped performing Christian concerts altogether, he faced problems nearly every night he performed.

During those five years I was never able to finish my show. I remember going on with 14,000 people and by the time I got done there were about 500 people left. People just walked out. They would come up to the front of the stage and rail on me and then walk out, Thomas recalls. Looking back on it, a lot of it was really my fault too, confesses Thomas. Id be booked in a strictly Christian or gospel situation and I would persist in doing my pop and country show along with the gospel material. Looking back, I am sure I could have tailored it just a little more toward a gospel audience. I kind of got hard headed with it too.

But for B J Thomas, those tough times were not in vain. Looking back on it, says Thomas, I feel like, and I dont want to overstate this, in staying true to ourselves we opened a lot of doors for a lot of people who are Christian artists in the pop field. {{Amy Grant}} comes to mind. Back in our time, to have any kind of pop or mainstream or country radio exposure to your Christian music was just sinful. It wasnt understood. I feel that maybe during that time I was, for lack of a better word, a harbinger of Christian music fitting into the mainstream.

Somewhere in the early 1980s, Thomas ran out of opportunities to create contemporary Christian music. The last record I made for Word, the one I made around 1982, was probably the best one I made, Thomas says, but there was virtually no audience for my music anymore.

So Thomas went back to country music where he continued to have success with songs like What Ever Happened to Old Fashioned Love, Two Car Garage, and The Whole Worlds in Love When You Are Lonely. But the outcome of that success was ironic. The ultimate result was that I could make country records but people looked at me as a gospel singer, Thomas explains. People were always asking when the next gospel record was going to come out. If I wasnt gonna make gospel records then the whole thing dried up. My opportunity to do country began to dry up as well.

So for over ten years, {{B J Thomas}} has pursued his country music career, but has never been completely satisfied with the way things turned out in Christian music. Recently, Thomas has had the opportunity to pursue Christian music again. Signed to Warner Bros. Records and working with country music veteran Jim Ed Norman, Thomas released Precious Memories, a collection of traditional, time honored hymns with a couple of his old stand out songs like Home Where I Belong re-recorded. The project is aimed at a very traditional audience but served a much larger purpose in Thomas life. Recording these songs (Precious Memories) touched me and reminded me of what I believe deep in my soul. It brought me back into more spiritual awareness than I had allowed myself in some years. In spite of myself, I was bitter about some things from the past. Working on this record has been the best thing that has happened to me in years. When we got done I realized that this thing healed a lot of hurtful feelings and resolved a lot of confusion that I have had. He has also recently released a Christmas album on the Warner Resound label.

And where does the road lead from here? I must say, says Thomas, after all these years, I still feel it is just possible that my real purpose to make this music. OK, I made some great pop records, but at this point, I am more committed to making gospel and Christian music, than I ever have been in my life. When I made my gospel records, they contained some of the best music I had ever made in my life. I will be committed to this genre from now to the end.