Me and Billy Paul… Missing a Beat
Billy, as he was know by, my man who was his musical director and traveled cross the water with more than once, died of cancer. Billy Paul had at least five big great chart hits, none as great as “Me and Mrs. Jones”. That song can call to mind infidelities of all sorts committed by everybody. It was a grown folks hit. I still can call to mind gladness and grief when I hear it. The song has one of those breaks that require the singer to hit a note and phrase with force and melodic accuracy. My man said they would lay odds as to whether he would sing it right night after night.
I worked for a while with one of Billy’s producers and good friend, Bunny Sigler. My man told me Bunny turned out the Lord’s Prayer at Billy’s funeral.
I signed my first record deal in Philly and came through there often. I would be playing usually the Civic Center or some jive ass club. The music in Philly ain’t no joke. Some old brother might meet you in the club, take you to his house, pull a saxophone or guitar out from under his bed, and play the shit out of it. Neighborhood singing groups, bands, jazz… it was all there in Philadelphia.
I did wind up working with a few Philadelphia producers. The one that comes to mind is Bunny Sigler who my man said killed the Lord’s Prayer at Billy’s funeral. I don’t know who wrote or produced “Me and Mrs. Jones”. Probably Gamble & Huff. What really matters the most is that Billy Paul sang the shit out of it.
Billy, like so may of us, lived fast and hard. What is good is that he also lived into his late seventies. That might not sound that long to some people, but to guys like us I’ll take it.