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Phil Phillips (1926–2020), “Sea of Love” singer

by Linnea Crowther

Phil Phillips was a singer and songwriter best known for his 1959 hit “Sea of Love.” The song was a million-seller that was later covered by other artists, including popular versions by Del Shannon in 1981 and the Honeydrippers in 1984.

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Died: March 14, 2020 (Who else died on March 14?)


Details of death: Died in Lake Charles, Louisiana at the age of 94.

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Phillips’ career: Born John Philip Baptiste in Crowley, Louisiana, Phillips recorded his most famous song in 1959 with his backing group, the Twilights. “Sea of Love” gained momentum after a Baton Rouge DJ gave it heavy airplay, and it eventually topped the R&B chart and made it to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. But Phillips never released it on an album, having been offered a record deal that he was unhappy with, and he only received $6,800 in royalties for the song. Phillips’ other songs include “What Will I Tell My Heart” and “The Evil Dope,” an anti-drug spoken word that became a cult classic.

What people said about him: “What a loss. Such a talent. Forever the voice of romantic love.” —author Peter La Chapelle

“We lost a Swamp Pop musical legend, Phil Phillips, last Saturday at the age of 94. He gave us ‘Sea of Love,’ a Swamp Pop classic. I am glad we honored him last year with his children present at the Swamp Pop museum.” —Twitter user @oldies925

Full obituary: KPLC News

Related lives:

  • Ben E. King (1938 – 2015), lead singer for the Drifters, known for “Stand By Me”
  • Ray Charles (1930 – 2004), legendary soul musician
  • Otis Redding (1941 – 1967), “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” singer

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