Charlie Thomas dying: Drifters singer battled liver most cancers

Charlie Thomas, a singer and longtime member of the R&B group the Drifters, has died. He was 85.

The veteran vocalist died Jan. 31 at his residence in Bowie, Md., after a battle with liver most cancers, his good friend and fellow singer Peter Lemongello Jr. confirmed to the Los Angeles Times. While performing with the Drifters for greater than 60 years, Thomas recorded hits reminiscent of “There Goes My Baby,” “Under the Boardwalk,” “This Magic Moment” and “Save the Last Dance for Me.”

According to the New York Times, Thomas continued to tour with the Drifters till the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“He was aging, but he was active almost every weekend,” Lemongello instructed the New York Times. “Unfortunately, he went from being active to being at home and he started going downhill.”

In 1988, Thomas was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame alongside fellow Drifters Ben E. King, Bill Pinkney, Clyde McPhatter, Gerhart Thrasher, Johnny Moore and Rudy Lewis.

“The story of the Drifters is more than the story of a single group’s success,” Michael Hill wrote of their hall-of-fame induction essay.

“It’s also the story of the great rhythm and blues singers who claimed membership in the group at various times … Time has hardly made their work seem quaint; rather, their work has withstood the ravages of the years to become even more special, more knowing.”

On Twitter, singer Gary U.S. Bonds remembered Thomas as “a good friend.”

“Rest in peace, Charlie,” Bonds wrote. “We will miss you. #rocknroll #legend.”

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“I have so many fond memories that we have spent together through much of my life growing up, that I will cherish forever,” Lemongello wrote on Instagram. “I can still hear Charlie proclaim ‘Peter Is A Star!’ which he would often tell me and whoever was around. I’ll miss you forever Charlie!”

Thomas is survived by his spouse, Rita Thomas; his daughters, Crystal Thomas Wilson and Victoria Green; his sons, Charlie Jr., Michael Sidbury and Brian Godfrey, and lots of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, in response to the New York Times. A memorial service for Thomas will happen Feb. 16 at First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Landover, Md.