Bell was best known for his work with the “Mighty Three” partners, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, to create the Sound of Philadelphia. As a songwriter, musician, producer, and arranger, Bell established a legacy as a pivotal figure in 1970s soul and impacted the genre beyond measure.
According to his Songwriters Hall of Fame biography, Bell was born in Jamaica in 1943 and studied classical music in his youth. By his teenage years, Bell met up with and joined Gamble in The Romeos and learned to play instruments. In his early 20s, the musical pioneer became a staff writer and touring conductor for The Twist singer Chubby Checker.
Bell’s first production job was with The Delfonics, crafting the signature sound of their hits “La La Means I Love You” and “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind.” In 1972 he produced the debut album by The Stylistics
His full resume includes working with Teddy Pendergrass, Johnny Mathis, Dionne Warwick, The Temptations, Phyllis Hyman, Dee Dee Bridgwater, The O’Jays, Elton John, Lou Rawls, Little Anthony and The Imperials, Dusty Springfield, David Byrne, Joss Stone, Fatboy Slim, and more.
Inducted into the SHOF in 2006, Bells career accolades include winning the first-ever Best Producer of the Year Grammy Award in 1975, receiving a star on Philadelphia’s Music Alliance’s Walk of Fame in 1993, and receiving the Grammy Trustees Award in 2016.
“Thom Bell left an indelible and everlasting mark on the history of popular music, but even more so, he will be remembered by all who knew him as a kind and loving friend and family man. The music world has truly lost one of the greats,” expressed his attorney in a statement to Billboard.
Bell is survived by his wife, Vanessa, and his children, Royal, Troy, Tia, Mark, Cybell, and Christopher. VIBE sends our deepest condolences to the Bell family and all those affected by this loss