'I can feel their spirit': Kenny Gamble on The Sound of Philadelphia

'Everything we would see, we would try to make a song out of it.'

Ian Bush
June 08, 2018 - 7:00 am
Vivienne Crawford and Kenny Gamble

Ian Bush/KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It's not every day you get to spend a couple hours with a music icon, but that's what more than 100 people were treated to on Wednesday at Temple University: a discussion with Kenny Gamble, in celebration of Black Music Month.

The tunes are a trip down memory lane.

"Most of the people who we worked with are gone — they've passed on," Gamble said. "But I can feel their spirit."

But to this crowd, swaying and singing along, the Sound of Philadelphia is how music is meant to be.
"Good!" Gamble said, as attendees continued to sing the lyrics, even after the DJ faded down the songs. "You sound good."
Gamble, one of the writer-producers responsible for scores of hits from the late '60s to early '80s, answered prompts from host Vivienne Crawford, a Philadelphia attorney and civil rights activist, and took questions from fans at the Feinstone Lounge inside Temple's Sullivan Hall. Gamble's songwriting and business partner, Leon Huff, was supposed to join the conversation but was forced to cancel due to "extenuating circumstances."
"Everything we would see, we would try to make a song out of it," Gamble explained of those prolific Philadelphia Internationals Records days. Like the daily thing a couple had goin' on in a bar at the Shubert Building on South Broad.
"They were holdin' hands," he recounted. "I guess they were makin' plans — we made that part up. She would get up and go to the jukebox, play their music. She would go back to the table — then, all of a sudden, she would leave, and then he would leave."

Teddy Pendergrass, Billy Paul, and The O'Jays were among the names on Philadelphia International's roster. With whom does Gamble want to work now?
"Bruno Mars," he said. "He reminds you of Jackie Wilson, James Brown — all of them in one."
And Fantasia Barrino.
"I've been trying to get a hold of her," Gamble said. "If I get a hold of her, we can get a hit."