Crafting one of the most significant chapters in music history, visionary songwriter-producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff co-founded PIR in 1971. The O’Jays, Patti LaBelle, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, Billy Paul, Lou Rawls and McFadden & Whitehead are just some of the stars who took the duo’s sumptuous Philly Soul, aka “The Sound of Philadelphia,” to the top of the charts.
Just as pivotal were the producers, songwriters, musicians and engineers that Gamble & Huff brought into the PIR family, among them Thom Bell, Dexter Wansel, Bobby Martin, Bunny Sigler Phil Hurtt, Joe Tarsia and house band MFSB. PIR’s 50-year history of R&B, soul, funk and disco is featured on this highlight reel.
“The power of the messages in the lyrics we wrote in ‘70s are still relevant today,” Huff tells Billboard. “We all had a mindset for community, how music teaches and soothes people’s souls. We still hear the music every day; it’s alive, well and still sounds great. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Noting that Philadelphia stands for freedom and brotherly love, Gamble says, “Our vision was unity and a feeling of one humanity, one people, one creation. Our music was a continuation [of that]. We had so many great musicians and participants involved in creating this sound. And we all showed what happens when you believe in yourself.”
To kick off the PIR 50th anniversary rollout, Legacy Recordings commissioned producer-DJ Eric Kupper and exec. producer Brad LeBeau to record new remixes of the 1979 McFadden & Whitehead classic “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.” The remixes are available to stream or download here.
Legacy is also partnering with Vinyl Me, Please (VMP) for VMP Anthology: The Story of Philadelphia International. Coming later this year, the exclusive vinyl box set packages eight albums remastered from their original tapes, paired with liner notes and an exclusive podcast interview series. And throughout 2021, Snapper Music-United Souls in association with Legacy will issue a volume series of limited-edition eight-CD sets. Each set will include elements such as an endorsed numbered certificate and a 48-page hardcover book boasting rare photographs. The remastered discs will also bring together the entire PIR studio album collection for the first time.
“We’re working on a comprehensive plan for the whole of 2021 to celebrate ‘The Sound of Philadelphia’ and the label’s central influence on the culture today,” says Zach Hochkeppel, vp of marketing for Legacy Recordings/Sony Music Entertainment. “Working with our partners at Gamble-Huff Music and Warner Chappell Music, these efforts will include a series of physical releases, unreleased archival content and video releases that will illuminate the width and the breadth of the work. We’ll use monthly themes to inform the release of new and unavailable remixes, playlists, content releases, robust social media calendars, a new website, media looks, partnerships and events that will frame the year’s efforts, culminating in the 50th anniversary in November.”
Warner Chappell Music is teaming with Sonos for another major anniversary component. The pair will premiere a new station on Sonos Radio HD titled The Sound of Philadelphia. Gamble will host and curate PIR’s greatest hits, share behind-the-scenes stories about their creation and welcome special guests. Available on Feb. 24 and running through 2021, the station will also present specially themed programming for Black History Month, Women’s History Month and more.
In a joint statement to Billboard, Warner Chappell co-chair/CEO Guy Moot and co-chair/COO Carianne Marshall note, “For almost three decades, our team has had the incredible honor of working with Gamble, Huff and [Thom] Bell and representing their extraordinary repertoire of songs. The trio’s iconic ‘Philly Sound’ paved the way for a new genre of music, and together they’ve built one of the most successful African American-owned music companies of all time. Our Warner Chappell family is very proud to join them in celebrating the 50th anniversary of PIR, and we’re looking forward to continuing to share their songs with the next generation of music lovers.”
Sony Music Entertainment announced its landmark deal with Philadelphia International Records in 2014, securing global ownership of all recordings made for PIR. The deal added all post-1975 PIR recordings to the PIR titles already owned by Sony Music, reuniting the entirety of the Philadelphia International Recordings catalog under a single global licensing and reissue entity.
For updates about PIR’s 50th anniversary celebration and releases throughout the year, visit www.SoundOfPhiladelphia.com