PASSINGS: Bobbie Smith, Frank Thornton
Original member of Spinners R&B; group
Bobbie Smith, 76, a singer with the Spinners soul music group since the 1950s, died Saturday in Orlando, Fla., of complications from pneumonia and influenza. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer in November, according to a statement from the band’s manager.
Along with Henry Fambrough, Smith was one of two remaining original members still performing with the R&B; group. His tenor voice was out front on a number of the Spinners’ biggest Atlantic Records hits in the 1970s, including “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” “I’ll Be Around,” “Games People Play” and the 1974 Dionne Warwick duet “Then Came You.”
Originally calling themselves the Domingoes and then the Detroit Spinners, Smith and Fambrough formed the vocal group in their native Detroit in 1957 with high school classmates Pervis Jackson, George W. Dixon and Billy Henderson. Smith sang lead on their first hit, the 1961 top 10 R&B; single “That’s What Girls Are Made For.”
The band, whose lineup changed over the years, recorded for Detroit label Motown later in the 1960s. But it was best known for its work with producer, arranger and songwriter Thom Bell, helping define the lush sound of Philadelphia soul in the 1970s.
The Spinners remained active through the years on the oldies circuit, with Smith and Fambrough continuing to lead a new incarnation of the band through last year.
British comedic actor
Frank Thornton, 92, a British actor best known as Captain Peacock in the long-running television comedy “Are You Being Served?,” died in his sleep early Saturday at his London home, said his agent, David Daly.
The actor played a mustachioed, pompous floor manager who oversaw his fellow shop workers at a department store on the innuendo-laden hit sitcom, which ran on British TV from the 1970s to 1985, and on a 1990s revival.
Born Jan. 15, 1921, in Dulwich, south London, Thornton had worked in insurance after leaving school but took evening classes to become an actor.
He soon took up stage acting and played in London’s West End, before serving in the Royal Air Force during World War II. In the 1950s, while still doing theater, he began to branch into television comedy. He appeared on “The Benny Hill Show” and other comedy programs, and also took a small role in the movie “Carry On Screaming.”
Later Thornton also became known for his part in another long-running television comedy series, “Last of the Summer Wine.”
He appeared in dozens of movies, including “Gosford Park.”
Times staff and wire reports
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