8 Feb 2008
Unforgettable People (VIII): Thom Bell
Born 1941 in Kingston, Jamaica, raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thom Bell was one of the prime originators of the Sound of Philadelphia, creating hits with the Delfonics such as "La La La Means I Love You" and "Didn't I Blow Your Mind." He was known as being extremely organized and precise, but more importantly was quite adventurous. He generally came to the studio with a specific sound in mind.
Thom, always an admirer of The Spinners, produced them when he was contracted for productions in Philadelphia for Atlantic Records. He also produced hits for the Stylistics and the Delfonics. Elton contacted Thom Bell throught The Spinners, after visiting the group backstage in London. Only two of the Elton’s songs were used in the Thom Bell’s Sessions: “Nice And Slow” and “Shine On Through”. The recording was on Autumn 1977 at Kay Smith Studio, Seattle Washington.
Thom Bell was the first person who taught Elton about his voice. As Elton remembered “He (Thom) said “listen, you’re not using your voice correctly, you write too high for yourself”. And said “you don’t use your lower register enough, and you don’t breathe properly”. I thought: Oh, fabulous, we’re going to get on very well”.
In the 90s and beyond, Bell worked with artists as diverse as James Ingram ("I Don't Have the Heart"), Angela Winbush, David Byrne and Joss Stone, while continuing to see his hit songs sampled and covered by countless artists.
Bell won the Grammy award in 1975 in the category of "Best Producer of the Year."
He was inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006