Billy Paul, best known for his 1972 single “Me and Mrs. Jones,” died on Sunday (April 24), according to a message posted on his website. He was 81 years old.
“We regret to announce with a heavy heart that Billy has passed away today at home after a serious medical condition,” the statement reads.
“We would like to extend our most sincere condolences to his wife Blanche and family for their loss, as they and the world grieves the loss of another musical icon that helped pioneered todays R&B music. Billy will be truly missed. Please share you thought [sic], messages and stories of Billy as we remember this legendary artist, family member and friend,” it continues.
Paul’s manager, Beverly Gay, confirmed his passing to NBC10. She stated that Paul (born Paul Williams) died at his home in in Blackwood, N.J., after being diagnosed with cancer and hospitalized a week ago at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.
“Me and Mrs. Jones” topped the Hot 100 in late 1972, and it earned Paul a Grammy Award for best R&B vocal performance, male in 1973.
Paul began singing at an early age, even sharing a bill at Club Harlem in Philadelphia with Charlie Parker when he was only 16 years old. “He died later that year,” Paul is quoted as saying. “I was there with him for a week and I learned what it would normally take two years to pick up. Bird told me if I kept struggling I’d go a long way, and I’ve never forgotten his words.”
Throughout his career, the singer released 15 albums, the most recent being 1988’s Wide Open. A biography on his website says that Questlove has called him “one of the criminally unmentioned proprietors of socially conscious post-revolution ’60s civil rights music.”