The Drifters Member Charlie Thomas Passes Away at Age 85

Words by: Brandon Simmons

After a battle with liver cancer, Charlie Thomas passed away at 85 years old.  He was a member of the popular 60s group, The Drifters.  Their biggest hit, “Save The Last Dance For Me,” topped the Billboard charts in 1960. 

For over 60 years, Thomas sang with The Drifters having lead parts on songs such as “Sweets for My Sweet” and “There Goes My First Love”.  His lifelong friend, Peter Lemongello Jr., confirmed that the singer passed away on Jan. 31st at his home in Bowie, Maryland.  Lemongello laments that even though he was getting old, he was still very active.


In 2013, Thomas credits his mother for his ability to sing.

“At my father’s church, I used to take the tambourine and do collection, and my mother used to sing in the choir.  That’s where I really got my training from singing.”

Before he joined The Drifters, he was part of a band called The Five Crowns.  The tenor of the group also appeared on other popular songs, such as “Saturday Night at the Movies,” “Under The Boardwalk,” and “Up on the Roof.”  The Drifters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.  In 1999, he was awarded the Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation.

Thomas continued to perform until 2020, when he formed his own group called, Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, a spinoff of The Drifters.  He leaves behind his wife and four children.