New Bedford music icon Ralph Tavares has passed away. The oldest of the brothers in the Grammy-winning Tavares act was 79, and would have turned 80 on Friday.

The cause of death has not yet been determined.

In reality, Ralph Tavares was the fifth of the 10 Tavares siblings, born December 10, 1941. He rose to prominence in the 1970s along with brothers Pooch, Chubby, Butch and Tiny – Ralph was the only member of the group without a nickname – to become one of the top R&B acts in the world.

Their version of “More Than a Woman” appeared on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, one of the best-selling albums of all time and winner of the Album of the Year Grammy in 1979.

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The Tavares family grew up in the Fox Point neighborhood of Providence and began performing in that area in 1959 as Chubby and the Turnpikes, before moving permanently to New Bedford in 1962. At that point, Ralph joined the Army while his brothers continued to try to make it in the local music scene. He returned home in 1965 and joined his brothers in Chubby and the Turnpikes, later renamed Tavares in the early 1970s.

In addition to their version of “More Than a Woman,” Tavares also had numerous other hits including “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel,” “It Only Takes a Minute,” “She’s Gone,” “Don’t Take Away the Music” and “Whodunit.” Their songs frequently topped the R&B and dance charts.

Ralph Tavares left the group in 1984 for family reasons, but rejoined in 2014 after Pooch suffered a massive stroke. Pooch recovered, but opted to retire, and Ralph remained with the group as they continued to perform, including in a 2017 Grammy tribute to the Bee Gees.

Ralph Tavares was a Dartmouth resident who, during his time away from the music business, spent over 30 years working as a court officer in New Bedford and Fall River.

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