Life and career
Born and raised in North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Paul began his singing career when he was twelve, appearing on local radio shows. Listening at home to his family's collection of 78s, Paul began developing a vocal style that would eventually incorporate traces of jazz, R&B and pop.Paul attended Temple University, West Philadelphia Music School, and Granoff School of Music, for formal vocal training. Switching from rock music to soul to pop ballads, he soon became known through his performances on the underground musical circuit in Philadelphia. Paul's popularity grew and led to appearances in clubs and at college campuses nationally. This led to further opportunities, appearing in concert with Charlie Parker, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, Miles Davis, The Impressions, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Roberta Flack.Paul formed a trio and cut his first record, "Why Am I" for Jubilee Records before being drafted into the Armed Services. After his discharge, he joined the New Dawn record label, and was a brief stand in for one of the Blue Notes with Harold Melvin. His first Philly album, Feeling Good at the Cadillac Club
combined Billy Paul and Gamble/Huff produced songs, and was released on the Gamble Label. This was followed by Ebony Woman
, a more commercial release on the Gamble & Huff Neptune Label.Later still, Going East
, Paul's first album released on the Philadelphia International Records label, placed him into the mainstream arena. However, it was with his second album that he received both commercial and critical recognition, 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul
, with "Me and Mrs. Jones" being the most notable track."Me and Mrs. Jones" was a No. 1 hit for the last three weeks of 1972, selling two million copies (platinum single status), and went on to win Paul a Grammy Award. The gold album and platinum single broke the artist on world charts, including the United Kingdom where the single entered the Top 20 of the UK Singles Chart reaching number 12 in early 1973. In the years since then, the song has been covered numerous times, most notably by Freddie Jackson in 1992 and Michael Bublé in 2007.In addition to receiving the Grammy, Paul has won several Ebby awards (given by the readers of Ebony Magazine); has been the recipient at the American Music Awards, the NAACP Image Award and numerous proclamations and keys to cities across the United States. He has also toured internationally in the UK, and Latin America.Paul was on the Neptune Records label for many years. He recorded much other material of note, including "Am I Black Enough For You?", "Let's Make a Baby" and an alternate version of "Let's Stay Together". Other songs he recorded include "Thanks for Saving My Life", "Let 'Em In", "Your Song", "Only the Strong Survive" and "Bring the Family Back".In 2011, Paul participated in the album of French singer Chimène Badi by recording a duet with her "Ain't No Mountain High Enough".