Billy Paul
Billy Paul, musician, aged 81 has diedGetty Images

R & B singer Billy Paul, who rose to fame for his hit-single Me And Mrs Jones, has died at the age of 81. He had been admitted to hospital recently after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Paul died at his home in New Jersey, his co-manager Beverly Gay told the Associated Press.

A message confirming his death was posted on Paul's website: "We regret to announce with a heavy hearth that Billy has passed away today at home after a serious medical condition." He is survived by his wife Blanche Williams, with whom he had two children.

Paul, whose career spanned over six decades, has won a Grammy award for his biggest-ever hit song Me And Mrs Jones released in 1972, which was about an extramarital affair. The song has been covered by Michael Buble among others, and has also featured in the movie Bridget Jones' Diary 2. While he has other hit numbers to his credit, this song remained as his identity for the rest of his life.

He continued to perform live until he fell ill and his manager said he had been lining up numerous appearances at the time of his death. He has also performed a cover of Prince's Purple Rain, which remained one of his favourites. Prince died on 21 April aged 57.

Billy Paul was born Paul Williams but to avoid confusion with other musicians of the same name, especially songwriter Paul Williams, he changed his name following his manager's suggestion.

Paul, known for his high pitch voice, was influenced particularly by female singers and paid more attention to them, as he did not find many male singers who matched his pitching scale.

One of his follow up singles Am I Black Enough For You? did not fare well on the charts and led to some political controversies.

He was one of the many artists associated with the Philadelphia soul sound created by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell. Paul's voice made him "one of the great artists to come out of Philly and to be celebrated worldwide," the ABC News reported Gamble and Huff as saying.

"Our proud moment with Billy was the recording of the salacious smash 'Me and Mrs Jones'. In our view, it is one of the greatest love songs ever recorded."