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Major Harris Dead at 65; Delfonics Band Member Helped Pioneer Philadelphia Soul Music

Major Harris Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Major Harris, the R&B singer who helped pioneer the sweeping sounds of Philadelphia soul during the 1970s as a member of the Delfonics before achieving fame as a solo artist in his own right, has died. He was 65.

Per published reports, Harris passed away Friday morning at a Richmond, Va., hospital from congestive heart and lung failure.

Born Feb. 9, 1947 into a musical family, Harris began singing with various doo-wop and R&B groups in the '60s around his native Richmond, among them the Jamels, the Charmers, Frankie Lymon's the Teenagers and Nat Turner's Rebellion.

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But it wasn't until he hooked up with the Delfonics, replacing crooner Randy Cain, that he really made a name for himself. The soul outfit contributed a slew of classic songs early in the '70s, many of which were later sampled by rappers like Wu-Tang Clan, the Fugees and Notorious B.I.G. and resurrected in films like Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown.

After the Delfonics fractured into two bands in 1974, Harris launched a solo career, signing a deal with Atlantic Records whereupon he scored a slew of R&B hits. Among his best known was "Love Won't Let Me Wait," which reached the top five on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

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In the '80s, the R&B smoothie subsequently returned to the Delfonics fold and throughout the remaining two decades, the band continued to tour in various configurations.

In 1996, Harris and other members even sang backing vocals on a track on the hip-hop album Ironman by Ghostface Killah.

There is word yet on funeral plans.

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