Coming Back to 'Coming Home': Alumnus Johnny Mathis and Thom Bell | PopMatters

Monday, March 02, 2015
POP MATTERS -- Olympic medals almost defined the Johnny Mathis story. As a student at San Francisco State College, Mathis excelled in the high jump. Setting one of the University’s record jumps (6-feet, 5.5 inches) had even earned Mathis an invitation to attend team USA’s trials for the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne. Of course, he became known for gold records instead of gold medallions, but if ever a Johnny Mathis album epitomizes an Olympian victory, it’s “I’m Coming Home” (1973). Produced by Thom Bell, the ten-song set remains an artistic triumph among the 86 albums Mathis has released over the last six decades. Of the 86 albums Mathis has recorded, it held a very special place for his father, Clem. “It was my father’s favorite album that I made,” he says. “My dad and I were inseparable all our lives. He was my best pal. He would sit and listen to I’m Coming Home ad nauseam. Every time I play it, I think about dad.”