R.I.P. Gil Saunders, former lead singer of Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes

(February 4, 2021) Tonight we say a sad goodbye to talented singer Gil Saunders, best known as the decade-long lead singer of the legendary act Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes. Saunders died today after long battles with M.S. and, more recently, lung cancer.

The Bluenotes were riding the top of the charts for most of the 1970s behind the lead vocals of Teddy Pendergrass and the sterling songwriting and production of Gamble and Huff. But when Pendergrass left for a solo career in 1977, the act’s fortunes changed almost immediately.

(February 4, 2021) Tonight we say a sad goodbye to talented singer Gil Saunders, best known as the decade-long lead singer of the legendary act Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes. Saunders died today after long battles with M.S. and, more recently, lung cancer.

The Bluenotes were riding the top of the charts for most of the 1970s behind the lead vocals of Teddy Pendergrass and the sterling songwriting and production of Gamble and Huff. But when Pendergrass left for a solo career in 1977, the act’s fortunes changed almost immediately.

The group's first post-Pendergrass album, Reaching For The World was clearly structured to sound like their work on PIR, but neither the material nor new lead singer David Ebo could match the Gamble & Huff/Pendergrass combination, and the title cut barely snuck into the Soul top 10.  It was the group's last hit.  Sporadic group member Sharon Paige (who had duetted with Pendergrass on the previous hit "I Hope That We Can Be Together Soon") took a more prominent role on the group's next LP, 1980's The Blue Album, but it barely charted.  

By the time of 1984’s Talk It Up (Tell Everybody) the group stabilized with a lineup that would last for the next decade, including Melvin, Rufus (Fuss) Thorn, Bill Spratley, and Dwight (Blackey) Johnson and with the talented Saunders taking on the lead. 

The Philadelphia born Saunders boasted a powerful, gruff voice that was the near perfect touch to handle both the group’s 70s hits on tour and the lead vocals on The Talk It Up album. The LP was released on the Philly World label to tepid response in the U.S., but become a moderate hit in other parts of the world, managing to chart three singles, "Today's Your Lucky Day", "Don't Give Me Up" and "I Really Love You." It became the Blue Notes’ final charting album.

Saunders left the Bluenotes in the mid-90s and progressed to a solo career, not long before Melvin’s untimely death in 1997 at age 57. Saunders continued to record singles into the 00s, with some local success for the songs "I Beg You to Stay," "In the Heat," and "Let's Turn In."

By Chris Rizik

Thanks to SoulTracker Evan for letting us know

 
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