The Drake ef­fect

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An­other “very spe­cial guest” is promised.

The first 100 peo­ple at the MoCA show will get a CD sin­gle of “Op­por­tu­nity,” from Thomas’ first stu­dio al­bum of new ma­te­rial in two decades, “Wings of Change,” due for re­lease in Septem­ber.

“It’s just for the fans, to say, ‘Timmy Thomas is still here, and he still has it,’” Bowker says.

There are many le­git­i­mate rea­sons to cel­e­brate Thomas’ ca­reer again, but it might not have hap­pened if not for rap­per Drake and a lit­tle song called “Hot­line Bling.”

It was days af­ter the July dig­i­tal re­lease of “Hot­line Bling” that Thomas’ great­niece in Evansville, Ind., where he was raised, called to tell him that Drake was “play­ing your song.”

“I said, ‘Drake who?’” Thomas re­calls, laugh­ing.

His 19-year-old grand­daugh­ter, who lives with Thomas and his wife of 50 years, Lil­lie, helped him get up to speed on the In­ter­net. He found that Drake had not merely cov­ered “Why Can’t We Live To­gether” but had used the dis­tinc­tively jazzy chill of Thomas’ orig­i­nal key­board track, stripped of its vo­cals, as the ba­sis for “Hot­line Bling.”

Thomas also dis­cov­ered a cou­ple of other things. One: “It’s a su­per big song, you know?”

In­deed, “Hot­line Bling” was one of the most in­escapable hits of 2015, top­ping out at No. 2 on the Bill­board sin­gles chart and land­ing on many crit­ics’ year-end best-of lists, with an ac­com­pa­ny­ing video that launched a thou­sand memes.

Thomas wrote “Why Can’t We Live To­gether” at home in a fit of an­guish af­ter watch­ing news­caster Wal­ter Cronkite in­form him that tens of thou­sands of Amer­i­can and Viet­namese sol­diers had died that day in 1972 in the Viet­nam War. Thomas’ ap­peal for peace and broth­er­hood later be­came the theme song dur­ing the his­toric 1994 South African gen­eral elec­tion that in­stalled Pres­i­dent Nelson Man­dela.

“Hot­line Bling” is Drake whin­ing about the fact that the girl he broke up with has moved on. Spin mag­a­zine called it a “skank­ing late-night moan.”

But Thomas has no prob­lem with the re­pur­pos­ing.

“Oh, man, I wanted to jump a cou­ple of flips. I was very happy that he brought my mu­sic back and got it heard again,” says Thomas, who read that Drake and his pro­ducer, Nine­teen85, called his work “the most dopest” key­board track they could find. “I had to learn what ‘dope’ means,” he says, laugh­ing.

An­other thing Thomas dis­cov­ered: Drake and Nine­teen85 ac­knowl­edged him in the cred­its on “Hot­line Bling” for writ­ing the mu­sic, which Thomas owns. If a dime is paid ev­ery time the song is played, Thomas says he and Drake each get a nickel.

Broad­cast Mu­sic Inc., which col­lects li­cense fees on be­half of song­writ­ers and com­posers, dis­trib­utes roy­al­ties quar­terly start­ing nine months af­ter a song is pub­lished, Thomas says, ac­knowl­edg­ing the first check should be com­ing soon.

“I just got a call from BMI. They said, ‘Is this Timmy Thomas? We just want you to know that you’re look­ing good this month,’” Thomas says, smil­ing. “They didn’t tell me how much. They can’t tell me that yet. But I can put some­thing on lay­away, if you know what I mean. I’m 71 years old, man. My God!”

Timmy Thomas and the Over­town Soul Re­vue will per­form 8 p.m. tonight at the Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art, 770 NE125th St., in North Mi­ami. Ad­mis­sion is free. Call 305-893-6211 or go to MOCANoMI. org.

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