Peanut Butter and Jelly….. Steak and Potatoes…… Bill Cosby and Jello……
One with out the other changes the equation, doesn’t it? Well, I have another winning combination that shouldn’t go unnoticed – Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. These men collectively wrote and produced 170 gold and platinum records under the Philadelphia International Record Label, defining the sound we know today as Philadelphia Soul Music. They were recipients of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Inaugural Ahmet Ertegun Award in 2008, writers and producers for over 3,500 songs, and own a catalog that includes numerous #1 hits and a Grammy Award. Songs like Love Train by The O’Jays, If You Dont Know Me By Now by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Me and Mrs. Jones by Billie Paul, and Expressway to Your Heart by The Soul Survivors are just a few of the songs from the Gamble and Huff catalogue contributing to their success. The song TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia), best known as the theme song for popular music television show, Soul Train, was one of the first disco songs to reach number one of the Billboard Hot 100. The Gamble and Huff catalogue has been sampled by pop stars such as Usher, Jay Z, Kanye West, and Nas. In other words, music today would be VERY different without the contributions of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
Camden based R&B vocal group, Ju-Taun, is currently working directly with Leon Huff on his solo album. These are good friends of mine, and the most impressive group of contemporary soul singers I have heard since Boyz II Men. If Ju-Taun were 30 years older, they would have been the heart and soul of Gamble and Huff’s legacy, no doubt about it. I have had the pleasure of backing them on the drums over the last 6 months, including performances honoring Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Below is a video of us playing for Leon Huff and an audience of soul fanatics at Philadelphia International Records’ souvenir shop (he was right next to the camera… yes, the pressure was on).
In an era where “making it” in the music business is a very difficult task, we can look at music legends like Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff with nothing short of sheer amazement that two men could accomplish what they have accomplished. What started as a coincidental meeting in an elevator turned into one of the biggest parternships in history. Philadelphia International Records currently focuses on the catalogue that is in such high demand all over the world, but are no longer a functional record label. Their songs will live on all around us and will hopefully continue to inspire songwriters and producers everywhere.