Drifters Icon Charlie Thomas’ Parting Song
It's ironic, but in one of The Drifters' biggest hits, the lyrics give voice to, "There goes my baby, movin' on down the line."
That's how I'm going to announce the passing away of 85-year-old Drifters singer Charlie Thomas. He died on January 31, 2023 after a courageous battle with liver cancer.
"It's been very difficult. I worked with Charlie for years and years and years," lamented Brockton's Jack Columbo, longtime music director and close friend of Charlie Thomas, Hall of Fame member of The Drifters.
"Charlie's music was pure. He hid behind nothing while capturing the feeling and soul of the music. That's what shines," Columbo said.
Todd Baptista, author, producer and concert host featuring original doo-wop artists, was inspired by his father, Randy. The Westport pharmacist also adopted the love and passion his dad had for the music and artists, and has put into service his that passion.
Baptista said it was a blessing that many of his childhood singing heroes ended up being close, personal friends of his, including Thomas.
"He became Uncle Charlie to my boys," Baptista said. "They loved him, as did my wife Kristen and myself."
Before his death, Thomas was succumbing to dementia.
"Charlie sang on more Drifters songs than anyone else. He loved being a Drifter, and was happiest when on stage," Baptista said.
Some of The Drifters' biggest hits included "There Goes My Baby," "Save the Last Dance for Me" and "Under the Boardwalk." Thomas sang lead vocals on the Top 40 hits "Sweets for My Sweet" and "When My Little Girl Is Smiling."
The New York Times reported Thomas' friend Peter Lemongello Jr., confirmed Thomas' passing in a statement.
"He was aging, but he was active almost every weekend. Unfortunately, he went from being active to being at home, and he started going downhill," said the former lead for the Crests.
What is it like working with a legendary singer like Charlie Thomas, who was a member of The Drifters for 60 years?
"Charlie gave me the opportunity to be a part of his legacy," Columbo said. "The opportunity to look inside his vast catalogue of songs, or dig deeper into the B-side of his songs that hadn't been sung for decades."
Thomas lived by a simple equality maxim.
"Charlie let everyone he met know that every human being was equally important and equally valued," Columbo said.