NPR logo Baritone Who Helped Define Philly Soul Dies

Baritone Who Helped Define Philly Soul Dies

Bernard Wilson, 64, who helped define the sound of Philadelphia soul in the 1970s, died Sunday at a hospital in New Jersey after suffering a stroke and a heart attack.

Wilson's velvet baritone backed up the hits he performed with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, including "If You Don't Know Me by Now" from 1972.

Wilson's parents died when he was a child and he was raised by a grandmother. His family liked to say he left home a pauper at 16 and returned a millionaire.

The Blue Notes were groomed by legendary Philly producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff.

"If You Don't Know Me by Now" charted on both the R&B and the pop charts. Other hits included "Wake Up Everybody" and "Bad Luck."

Although he sang second baritone, Wilson was the flashiest member of the group. He loved fancy clothes and cars, according to Lloyd Parks, who at 61 is now the group's last original member.

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