For more than three decades, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff gave Philadelphians hit upon soulful-music hit. Yesterday, Philadelphia gave back by renaming Broad Street between Spruce and Pine as “Gamble and Huff Walk.”
“We literally grew up on this music,” said Mayor Michael Nutter, crediting the pair with putting “Philadelphia on the world map as the epicenter of soul music.”
The event — which temporarily closed the block that houses the Kimmel Center – kicked off a two-year celebration that will wrap up with the 40th anniversary of Philadelphia International Records. Nutter, several city councilmembers and dozens of fans acknowledged the musical legends whose hands crafted “The Sound of Philadelphia.” Nutter also presented them with the Liberty Bell replica, one of the city’s highest honors.
Gamble, who grew up in Philadelphia, talked about the duo’s journey and alluded to last year’s arson that nearly destroyed the Broad Street studios where artists like Patti LaBelle and Michael Jackson cranked out songs.
“They tried to burn us out,” he said. “We got a lot of friends in this city. …We’re going to make a triumph out of this tragedy. You can never stop the music.”
60 seconds with …
DJ Jerry Blavat talks about Gamble and Huff’s legacy.
Describe their impact on Philadelphia.
Philly International did, not only in the country but internationally, what Berry Gordy’s music did for Detroit. Everyone knows Motown is Detroit. When you talk about Philly International, it’s the same thing.
What does the street re-naming signify?
I’m sure 50 years from now … people will say “Why is that name there?” And what will happen is people will go and read about the music of and the legacy.
Of all the music producers, what made them special?
[They] created music and lyrics about what was really happening in America in the ’70s. [It] made a statement that became The Sound of Philadelphia in the ’70s.