Charlie Thomas, Singer Of Doo-Wop Band The Drifters, Passes Away

8 February 2023 | 10:18 am | Mary Varvaris

"Unfortunately, he went from being active to being at home and he started going downhill."

(Charlie Thomas's Drifters via Facebook)

Charlie Thomas, the longtime singer of the doo-wop group The Drifters, has passed away aged 85 from liver cancer.

Although there have been multiple iterations of The Drifters and many personnel changes, the hits with Thomas included Under The Boardwalk, There Goes My Baby, Sweets For My Sweet and When My Little Girl Is Smiling

Charlie Thomas performed for 66 years. He was in the group during their most commercially successful era and, for a while, called Ben E. King his bandmate.

"He was aging, but he was active almost every weekend," Peter Lemongello Jr, a lifelong friend and a former lead singer of The Crests, told The New York Times. "Unfortunately, he went from being active to being at home and he started going downhill."

While The Drifters broke up in the 1960s, members went and formed their own bands that incorporated the name "Drifters." Thomas ended up forming Charlie Thomas's Drifters following the main band's disbandment and performed until 2020.

Thomas is survived by his wife, Rita Thomas; his daughters, Crystal Thomas Wilson and Victoria Green; his sons, Charlie Jr., Michael Sidbury and Brian Godfrey; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

As well as the members of the original Drifters, Thomas was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1988.

The Rock Hall led tributes to Thomas, stating on Twitter, "Charlie Thomas' elegant tenor vocals helped bridge gospel with R&B and blues and laid the foundation for 1960s soul music. 

"His work with The Drifters ushered in a golden age of enduring hits like There Goes My Baby, Sweets for My Sweet, When My Little Girl Is Smiling, and Save the Last Dance for Me. Charlie Thomas' suave, sophisticated voice elevated everyday joys and loves, striking a universal chord in listeners everywhere."

Session musician Ivan “Funkboy” Bodley, who has playing with Sting, Ben E. King, The Temptations and more on his resume, wrote, "Rest well, sweet Charlie Thomas (The Drifters), R&R Hall of Famer, cherished friend. Years ago, he said, "Remember, Ivan, wherever you go in this world, you've got Charlie Thomas with you." It stayed with me ever since. He was right. I will always have Charlie Thomas with me."