In the late 1960s, a sound emerged out of Philadelphia that dominated the charts. Led by the legendary production team and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, and producer/arranger Thom Bell, Philly soul created a new sound for the 1970s. It synthesized the sweet harmonies of Fifties doo-wop and the gruff, gospel-inflected singing of Sixties soul into a new mix with soaring strings, a driving beat, and a message emphasizing the importance of community. Some of Philly’s classic hits include “Love Train” by Rock Hall Inductees The O’Jays, Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones,” The Three Degrees “When Will I See You Again” and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “Wake Up Everybody.”
Throughout the Rock Hall’s 14th annual celebration of Black History Month, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame education department offered a special Black History Month class entitled “The Music is the Message: The Sound of Philadelphia” as part of its interdisciplinary educational program, Rockin’ the Schools. Students explored the innovative sound of Philadelphia soul and the creativity and learn about tenacity of the African-American musicians and entrepreneurs that made “The Sound of Philadelphia” a musical phenomenon against the backdrop of social and political conditions in the 1970s.
Wednesday February 3, 7pm, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Foster Theater (4th Floor)
6:30 pm: Special Pre-Screening discussion with Executive Producer Kenard Gibbs
7:00 pm: Film Screening – SOUL TRAIN: THE HIPPEST TRIP IN AMERICA
From 1970—2006, Soul Train offered a window into African American music and culture, and its charismatic host, Don Cornelius, was the man responsible for a new era in African American expression. A trained journalist, Don created a media empire that provided an outlet for record labels and advertisers to reach a new generation of music fans. He was one of the first African Americans to own his own show. In 1974, “T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia),” written and produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, became the show’s theme song.
Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America is narrated by Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard and features an original score by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots. The documentary includes memorable performances and moments from the show, as well as behind-the-scene stories from the people who lived the “Soul Train” movement, including the cast, crew, and dancers. In addition, popular musicians (including Eddie Levert of The O’Jays and Sly Stone, in his first exclusive documentary interview in years), comics, and music industry executives (including Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff) will comment on growing up with the show and will share their stories of how “Soul Train” affected their own lives.
Monday February 8, 7pm, Baker Nord Center for the Humanities, Case Western Reserve University, Clark 309:
An Evening with John Jackson, Author of A House on Fire: The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul
John Jackson is the author of three award-winning books – A House on Fire: The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul (2004), American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Marking of a Rock and Roll Empire (1997), and Big Beat Heat: Alan Freed and the Early Years of Rock and Roll (1991). Jackson’s book on Philly soul received the Association for Recorded Sound Collection’s (ARSC) Award for Excellence in the Best History in Recorded Rock, Rhythm & Blues, or Soul category. The 1998 movie Mr. Rock And Roll, starring Judd Nelson as Alan Freed, was based on Jackson’s Big Beat Heat.
Wednesday February 10, 4:30pm, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Eat to the Beat
Teachers Rock: Professional Development Series for K-12 Educators with Dr. Joke Bradt (MT-BC, LCAT), Temple University
Teachers Rock will feature Dr. Joke Bradt, a Board-certified music therapist and Assistant Director of The Arts and Quality of Life Research Center at Temple University. Dr. Bradt will share her experiences working with at-risk youth in inner-city Philadelphia through the “Hear Our Voices” songwriting program. Participants will learn how songwriting can help struggling students work through difficult situations while building basic and creative writing skills.
Teachers Rock is a professional development workshop series for K-12 level teachers and school administrators interested in integrating popular music into core-curriculum teaching. This monthly series is offered free of charge from 4:30 – 6 PM on the second Wednesday of most months. Each Teachers Rock session will spotlight a specific grade band or content area by exploring great moments in rock and roll history and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees who made those moments happen. Educators learn how to use appropriate arts-integrated activities and instructional methods and receive featured lessons and resources for use in their own classrooms.
Wednesday February 17, 7pm, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Foster Theater (4th Floor)
Hailing from West Philadelphia, Weldon Arthur McDougal III has contributed to the musical evolution of the Sound of Philadelphia for over four decades. As a songwriter, recording artist, group bandleader and independent producer, he has helped shape and influence the creation and development of Philly sound since the early 1960s.
As a founding member and co-owner of the now legendary Harthon/Dynodynamics record labels alongside Luther Randolph and Johnny Stiles, Weldon produced diverse local Philly artists including Eddie Holman, Barbara Mason, the Volcanoes, Larry Clinton, Nella Dodds, Cindy Gibson, Herb Ward, and many others.
McDougal produced Barbara Mason’s Philly classic Top 10 hit, “Yes, I’m Ready” which is one of the first examples of the sweet, lush orchestrated sound that came to be called Philly soul. In the 1970’s, McDougal continued to produce while working nationally at Motown records.
McDougal will be interviewed in front of a live audience as part of the Museum’s From Songwriters to Soundmen: The People Behind the Hits free educational series that gives audiences an inside look at aspects of the music business that are often concealed from view.
Friday February 19, 1pm, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Foster Theater (4th Floor)
The Chi-Lites will be interviewed in front of a live audience as part of the Museum’s Legends Series, which offers audiences rare and unique access to important artists.
The Chi-Lites formed in Chicago in the early 1960s, a blend of two local doo wop groups. They signed with Brunswick records in 1968 and began to record a series of hit singles that featured the smooth vocals, string arrangements, and social messages that also characterized Philadelphia soul. They had eleven Top 10 R&B hits in the 1970s, including “Have You Seen Her,” “Oh Girl,” “Stoned Out of My Mind,” “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People” and “There Will Never Be Any Peace (Until God Is Seated at the Conference Table).” They were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2005.
Wednesday February 24, 7pm, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Foster Theater (4th Floor)
Rock and Roll Night School is a monthly series of educational, discussion-based night classes offered free of charge from 7 pm – 8:30 pm in the Museum’s 4th floor theater. Dr. Lauren Onkey, Vice President of Education and Public Programming, and Jason Hanley, musicologist and Director of Education at the Rock Hall, will lead this month’s class, which will focus on the legendary label, Philadelphia International Records.
Friday, February 26, 8 pm, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Main Stage
The Manhattans, an R&B vocal group who recorded many classic songs in the Philly Soul style, have achieved career longevity by adapting their style to fit changing times. In 2009, they celebrated their 45th anniversary.
Formed in the 1960s by Winfred “Blue” Lovett, Richard Taylor, Kenny Kelley, George “Smitty” Smith and Sonny Bivins the group had a string of hits on Carnival Records during the mid 1960s. When Smith became ill in 1970, Gerald Alston, whose style paid homage to the legendary Sam Cooke, took over as lead singer. More a pop singer than either Lovett or Smith, Alston’s incorporation into the group enabled The Manhattans to break out of their mold as “doo-woppers” and achieve major national success on Starday/King Records with a Teddy Randazzo love song entitled “A Million To One.” In 1972, Blue Lovett’s “One Life To Live” reached the top 20 R&B charts. With Alston handling all lead vocals and Lovett providing smooth spoken introductions, The Manhattans moved to Columbia Records in 1973 where they collaborated with Philadelphia International producer and arranger Bobby Martin on a string of hits including “There’s No Me Without You.” The most notable of these was Blue Lovett’s “Kiss And Say Goodbye,” a platinum selling #1 pop and R&B hit in 1976. In that same year, The Manhattans teamed up once again with producer Randazzo to record “Feels So Good”, “You’re My Life” and “There’s No Good In Goodbye”. In 1977, they performed at President Jimmy Carter’s Inaugural Ball and since then have received their share of platinum and gold singles, albums, and other industry kudos; most notably a 1980 Grammy for “Shining Star” written and produced by Leo Graham.
After 16 years with Columbia Records, lead singer Gerald Alston took his turn as a solo artist with Motown Records; while Blue Lovett, due to doctor’s concerns regarding his health, decided to turn his attention towards producing and grooming new artists. The late 1980’s found The Manhattans pursuing individual interests within the industry. In 1993, all that changed. With their 30th anniversary approaching in 1994, it was the perfect time to reunite. So, along with new members Troy May and David Tyson, a reunion tour was born. On February 25, 1999, The Manhattans were inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame.