At the age of 85, The Drifters’ Charlie Thomas passed away from liver cancer.

According to The New York Times, the singer passed away last week. He was a part of the R&B and soul group during the early 1960s, when they achieved commercial success.

Thomas, who was born in 1937 in Virginia, United States, joined the group in the late 1950s when George Treadwell, manager of The Drifters, sacked every member of the group after a terrible performance at the Apollo in Harlem, New York City.

Thomas joined the group even though he was already singing in The Five Crowns at the time, and together they went on to have their lone Billboard Number One success with “Save The Last Dance For Me.” The Drifters also included Ben E. King.

Later, he contributed vocals to at least two of The Drifters’ biggest songs, such as “When My Little Girl Is Smiling” and “Sweets For My Sweet” (1962). (1962).

Thomas departed the updated version of The Drifters in 1967, although he continued to perform with other Drifters family members throughout the ensuing decades, occasionally as a member of The Original Drifters but more frequently as Charlie Thomas’ Drifters.

Thomas was honored in 1988 by being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside members of The Original Drifters.

After hearing the news of the late singer’s passing, tributes poured in. Although some condolences were posted closer to the time of his demise last week (apparently on Tuesday, January 31), mainstream media only recently covered his passing.

“Charlie Thomas’ exquisite tenor vocals helped bridge gospel with R&B and blues and created the framework for 1960s soul music,” the Rock Hall noted on Twitter. A golden era of timeless hits like “There Goes My Baby,” “Sweets for My Sweet,” “When My Little Girl Is Smiling,” and “Save the Last Dance for Me” were brought about by his work with The Drifters.

“Charlie Thomas’ elegant, sophisticated voice elevated commonplace pleasures and loves, touching a chord among listeners everywhere,” said one reviewer.

Gary U.S. Bonds, a seasoned R&B and rock musician, also paid tribute. Charlie Thomas of the Drifters passed away today, which is a tragedy. Charlie, have peace. We won’t forget you. Twitter user #rocknroll #legend,” he wrote.

Ivan “Funkboy” Bodley, a session guitarist who has performed with artists such as Sting, Elvis Costello, The Temptations, and Ben E. King of The Drifters, said: “Rest in peace, lovely Charlie Thomas (The Drifters), R&R Hall of Famer, beloved friend. Remember, Ivan, you have Charlie Thomas with you wherever you go in this world, he advised years ago. It has followed me ever since. He was accurate. Charlie Thomas will always be with me.

Below are additional tributes.


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