Harry d butler
Billy Joe Thomas, better known as “BJ”, died a few weeks ago from stage 4 lung cancer; he was 78 years old.
Born in Oklahoma, but raised in Texas, the 6-foot tall singer had a hit record series – “The raindrops keep falling on my head”, “Can’t help but believe” , “Hooked On A Feeling” and many more. . It was reported that his album “Home Where I Belong” became one of the first gospel albums to be certified platinum with sales of over one million copies. It has had eight No.1 hits on multiple charts and won five Grammy Awards.
It was 44 years ago (1977, all of you) at Gadsden’s Convention Hall when we heard a “sold out” concert by Thomas – with a religious song he dedicated to “my Lord and Savior” – which is memorable because of an interview later that night.
After the concert ended, several members of the press gathered backstage with him for the regularly awaited interview, wanting to know about his just announced 10-week Las Vegas reservation – “for the very first time.” -. When the discussion about it evolved into his Christian experience, all the other reporters walked away. I turned on my tape recorder; my wife and I then listened to the 35-year-old artist talk about being a Christian:
“I was saved on January 28, 1976 and it completely changed my life. I had been a drug addict for 12 years and was afraid of “withdrawals” if I gave my life to Christ. I had already lived through this agony and I did not want to go through drug withdrawal any longer, but a miracle happened; There were none. I was overjoyed that there were no such symptoms. I started to sleep; my vision has changed; I was a different person.
“If I can have any kind of ministry or testimony, it’s here on the road. You know, we’re often in clubs or in special situations where you might just mention that you’re going to do a song for Jesus Christ, it’s not exactly the right thing to say or do – but we do. now doing every show and I feel like someone has to do it. Someone must be here with these people. Someone needs to talk about Jesus. I think that’s why I was saved; I think that’s the Lord’s plan for me.
Question: You have sold 20 million records, traveled everywhere; tell us about talking about Jesus when you are on stage in front of thousands of people.
“I don’t mean to imply that I’m doing something that takes more courage than anyone else. I know “Wolfman Jack, (the best DJ) and many others in the entertainment industry who have made this decision to change our lives.… Life is so much easier now; I never cared about the term” Jesus “and all those” Jesus “monsters, but they made me think, me and others. Maybe being on stage is not the place to testify, but to mention Jesus, even if the people who listen are not believers, it gives you some respect.
Question: BJ, you have been asked to participate in church revivals, evangelistic crusades and so on; why don’t you do that?
“There is a lot of pressure on me about what to do with my testimony. I did not sing a note in my church. There is a lot of pressure on me from certain groups to do evangelical crusades. My pastor and I agree that somebody’s got to be out there where these people are, and they need to hear a testimony; maybe the only one they’ll ever hear. … I discovered that this is where it is most important.
Question: Has anything miraculous happened since you became a Christian?
“I have experienced a miraculous change. There has been (a) a 1000% change in my outlook. Very dramatic change. I’ve been arrested several times for doing crazy things (“maybe even in Gadsden,” he said earlier); I had been a bad person and had bad lungs, respiratory problems… I was stabbed once on Eighth Street in New York – my life changed when I was saved. I kept jumping up and down and laughing, I was so happy! The decision changed my life.
Question: If you had a message to share with the younger generation, what would it be?
“I work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Grapevine, TX, talk to sports teams, youth and adults, and knowing kids love to experiment with drugs, tell them what addiction is like. I know what it is. But the Lord promises that if you face and resist your temptation, He will strengthen and establish you. ”
“But the most important thing for me – in Ephesians it says that your relationship with your wife should be like your relationship with Christ; it really worked in my life, it really helped me. I have found that the more I give to my wife, the more she reflects this to me. My wife, Gloria, stood by my side, strengthened me, when I was doing bad things.
This writer is thankful for saving the tape from this reunion. A final note: BJ said that “Raindrops…” was specially written for a movie and that Bob Dylan had to sing it ”; but he declined the offer and “since I was in the studio at the time, I was asked to record the song.”