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Phillip Ballou died, Phillip Ballou passed away


Phillip Ballou died, Phillip Ballou passed away (1950-2005).

Phillip Ballou, prolific background vocalist for a roster of high-profile artists ranging from Luther Vandross and Aretha Franklin to James Taylor, passed away on Saturday, March 19 in New York due to a stroke. Phillip Ballou, who was also a member of the 1970s pop/gospel group Revelation, lived in Brooklyn and was 55 years old.

Phillip Demitrius Ballou was born in Pittsburgh, PA on February 22, 1950, and grew up there. Phillip Ballou's aptitude for singing showed itself early, which delighted his mother, Edith Washington-Ballou-Ghafoor, who wanted him to become a preacher or a gospel singer. He sang in his family's church and other churches, probably instinctively taking after his father, gospel singer Roosevelt Payne of the renowned Swan Silvertones. Ballou never really knew his father, who left the family when his son was very young.

He studied art at Carnegie Mellon University and moved to New York in the early 1970s to become a professional singer. After teaching grade school and working at several jobs, he founded Revelation in 1974 with three friends, Benny Diggs, Arnold McCuller and Arthur Freeman.

Described by the All Music Guide as "a silky New York group," Revelation toured as an opening act for the Bee Gees and was signed with RSO Records, resulting in a number of singles, including "Get Ready for This," "Where It's Warm," and "You to Me Are Everything," and an album.

The RSO deal ended in 1977, after which Revelation signed with RCA Records and, accompanied by the New York Community Choir, made an acclaimed album called "Make Every Day Count." Uncredited, they backed Vickie Sue Robinson in 1979 on her hit RCA album "Turn the Beat Around." Finally, Revelation signed with a smaller company called Handshake Records and made several recordings, after which they disbanded.

Next, Phillip Ballou performed in off-Broadway musicals, then became a highly successful background vocalist. He toured and recorded with James Taylor and Todd Rundgren as well as Laurie Anderson and John Hall, and began a recording and touring association with Luther Vandross that lasted until just before Vandross' latest album. In addition, he recorded with Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, Tom Jones, George Benson, Billy Ocean, Kashif, Nona Hendryx, Jonathan Butler, Teddy Pendergrass, Melba Moore, Irene Cara, John Hall, Asleep at the Wheel, the disco group SOS All-Stars, gospel singer Tramaine Hawkins, and many more.

He sang with John Hall at the fabled 1979 "No Nukes" concert at Madison Square Garden. He also appeared in the 1978 film "American Hot Wax" and the Nicolas Cage movie "Kiss of the Vampire." He issued three solo gospel recordings.

Since the beginning of 2004, Phillip Ballou was the Minister of Music at Pentecostal House of Prayer in Brooklyn (Bishop Luther Dingle, Senior Pastor).

Recalling their childhood, Ballou's younger sister Faith Ross-Thornton, a fashion designer and businesswoman, said, "I was very close to Phillip, and we were very involved in our church choir. I didn't keep up with the singing, but he did, and when he performed with all the wonderful singers with whom he worked over the years, I was excited and happy for him, very pleased and proud. He was my mentor."

Survivors in addition to Ross-Thornton, her husband Ralph Thornton and her son Arthur are Ballou's older sister Eunice Washington; older brother Timothy Ballou and his wife Darlene; another younger brother, Talib K. Ghafoor; nieces Desiree, Tuesday, Talina, Timara and Edythe; nephews Timothy, Quinton, and Rashad; great nieces Maya and Bobbi; and great nephews Robert and T.J. A younger sister, Chicrita, passed away in the mid-1980s.

Services will be held on Thursday, March 24 (5 to 7:30 p.m. visitation with the family; 7:30 p.m. memorial service) at the Evening Star Baptist Church, 265-267 Gates Avenue at Franklin, Brooklyn, NY 11238. A memorial will be also held in Pittsburgh with the date to be announced shortly.

Donations to cover funeral expenses will be gratefully accepted by the family and may be sent to Faith Ross-Thornton at 2977 Cherry Hill Drive, Antioch, TN 37013.


(Thanks to David Lasley webmaster for this information).

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Phil was a good, good friend of mine and although I knew he had been sick (we spoke about six weeks ago), I had no clue that he was that ill. I remember him with much fondness: he was a truly soulful singer and one of the nicest, warmest people I've ever met. Back in the late '70s and early '80s, we wrote some songs together and I have many fond memories of being in the studio with him, hanging out and having big fun. I will miss him much. RIP, Phil...you touched my heart and soul with your music and your spirit.

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