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23 December 2022

Thom Bell, Producer Behind ‘The Sound Of Philadelphia’ Dies Aged 79

Thom Bell
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Thom Bell, the legendary producer and songwriter who put Philly Soul on the map in the 1960s and 70s, has died aged 79. A cause of death has not yet been revealed.

Bell co-created “The Sound of Philadelphia” alongside songwriter Leon Huff and producer Kenny Gamble, who were known as the Mighty Three. Together, they founded the Philadelphia International label and released era-defining records that were beloved the world over. Acts that Bell produced include The Delfonics, The Spinners, The O’Jays, The Stylistics, Dionne Warwick and Elton John

Both of Bell’s longtime collaborators paid tribute to him in a press statement. “Tommy and I have been best friends for over 60 years,” Gamble said. “Leon Huff and I were proud to have him as part of our Mighty Three music writing team, which helped create our signature brand of TSOP. He was a great talent and my dear friend. The name of Gamble Huff and Bell will last forever. Rest in peace buddy!”

Bell was born in Jamaica in 1943 and his family relocated to West Philadelphia during his childhood. Both of Bell’s parents were musicians, and as a child he played drums and studied classical piano. In his teenage years, he played alongside Gamble in the Romeos, and by his early 20s, he worked as a staff writer and touring conductor for Chubby Checker. In the late ’60s, Bell began working as a producer for The Delfonics—a collaboration that would result in hits like La-La Means I Love You and Didn’t I Blow Your Mind and set the wheels in motion for Philadelphia International.

During the 70s, the label released a string of worldwide hits with Bell’s trademark lavish orchestral instrumentation, heavy bass and driving percussion. Their most popular and best selling acts included The O’Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, MFSB, Billy Paul, Patti LaBelle and Lou Rawls. Between 1971 and the early 1980s, the label released more than 170 gold and platinum records

In 1975, Bell won the Grammy Award for Best Producer of the Year, Non-Classical, and in 2006, he was inducted into Songwriters Hall of Fame. Earlier this year, a new documentary focusing on the work of Bell, Huff, and Gamble was announced.

In his own statement, Huff added: “Thom Bell was my favorite musician, arranger, songwriter, and music producer of all time. It was my esteemed honor and pleasure to work with him creatively and as a business partner. Rest in peace.”

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