Pop singer B.J. Thomas, who succumbed to lung cancer on May 27, was best known for his hit songs "Raindrop Keep Fallin' on My Head" (No. 1, 1969), "Hooked on a Feeling" (No. 5, 1968) and "(Hey Won't you Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song" (No. 1, 1975).
After that triumphant run, Thomas crossed over into Christian music. From 1977-1982, he won gospel Grammys five consecutive years.
According to his website: "Like many successful pop/rock artists, Thomas fell into drugs and battled substance abuse. His wife Gloria became a born-again Christian and the turning point in Thomas’ life came when he became a believer in 1976. He immediately quit drugs and found an avenue for expressing his faith in gospel music."
In an interview with Geraldo Rivera in 1974 (see below), Thomas discussed his addiction to pharmaceutical drugs: "At that time in my career I had become so involved in the drug thing it seemed like it was really another person that was doing all this stuff. It was right after I had 'Hooked on a Feeling.'
"When I first started singing at 15, I was signed to a local small-town producer," Thomas explained about his upbringing in Houston. "He said, 'Take one of these, it will make you feel great.' I'd be tired at the session. So, I'd take one and it would make me feel great. I took them, but not really knowing what they were going to end up doing to me until really it was too late."
Thomas' drug intake was astronomical. "I would wake up in the afternoon and lay about 40 [amphetamine pills] out. I took the 40 until I got where I wanted to be. Of course if you take 40 and you start coming down, then you've got to take 80 to get back up to where you were. There had been times when I took sleeping pills on Monday and didn't wake up until Friday. I was so wrung out."
B.J. Thomas: "Around 1969 and '70, drugs were fairly inexpensive. They were easy to get. I would buy 10,000 pills at one time so I could feel secure. There was actually one time I felt I would never be able to sing again until I took a handful of ups. I just didn't think it would be possible."
Thomas' drug use played havoc with his concert schedule. In 1971, during a two-week engagement at the Copa in Las Vegas, he left the club during the second week and didn't come back. "I couldn't stand it anymore," Thomas recalled. "I missed nine bookings one month. It cost me $200,000. I figured out this isn't working very well. I sat down with my manager and we decided that the thing for me to do was to stop. After I walked out of the Copa, I did continue to work my college one-nighters. Sometimes I'd get to the one nighter and the house would be full of people and I'd just be so scared. The place would be full and I'd just leave. I did crazy things like that.
"I sought professional help. I went to an analyst. Within 30 days or so I was off the pills. It made me feel sick to go to the anyalyst, if you know what I'm saying. I figured if I quit taking the pills I won't have to see this guy. Of course, the problem was more deeply rooted than just taking the pills, so I continued to see him. I got my head on now as straight as it's going to be."
Amphetamines were particularly popular among athletes and performers in the '60s and '70. Known as "greenies," players routinely popped them before games in the lockeroom. Thomas' use was staggering. Though there's no mention of marijuana in Thomas' history, he likely smoked it.
"Hooked on a Feeling"
Thomas didn't write "Hooked on a Feeling" (Mark James did), he just sang it. The song has some stony lyrics and a trippy sitar.
I'm hooked on a feeling
I'm high on believing
That you're in love with me
All the good love
When we're all alone
Keep it up, girl
Yeah, you turn me on
There are numerous cover versions of the song, the first by British singer Jonathan King in 1971 and then Blue Swede's No. 1 verson in 1975.
Elvis Presley also recorded a rendition.