Russell Thompkins Jr.
Photo: Anthony Barboza/Getty Images
Thom Bell's "Major Influence" On The Stylistics
There would have been no classic sound of Philadelphia soul in the 1970s if it weren't for producer/record label executive Thom Bell.
This is something Russell Thompkins Jr. knows intimately as a member of the Philly soul group the Stylistics, for whom Bell co-wrote and produced several hits, including "I'm Stone In Love With You," "Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)" and "You Are Everything."
"He was the major influence of my career," says Thompkins. "When I first went in with Tommy, I think I was 19 or 20 years old. That's when I first started learning my craft. And from the things that I learned from doing the sessions with him, it's lasted me my whole career."
Now, Thompkins will have a chance to honor Bell, a 2017 Recording Academy Trustees Award recipient, for his contributions to the music industry during the Academy's "GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends" two-hour TV special in recognition of this year's class of Special Merit Awards recipients.
Thompkins will perform a rendition of "You Make Me Feel Brand New" in Bell's honor, one of the biggest songs Bell did with the Stylistics. But Thompkins' favorite Bell tune?
"My favorite song of Thom Bell's in 'Betcha By Golly Wow,'" says Thompkins. "It's the song in my show that I never get tired of performing. It's a wonderful song. I think out of the Stylistics' songs, it's the most recorded and done by other artists."
Tune in to "GRAMMY Salute To Music Legends" on PBS on Oct. 13 at 9 p.m. on PBS. In addition to Bell, honorees will include Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Sly Stone, Charley Pride and Shirley Caesar. Other artists scheduled to pay tribute to the honorees include Andra Day, Dwight Yoakam and Kirk Franklin.