The Cities of Soul: The Sound of Philadelphia

“Black was beautiful.  It still is! But that was the slogan. And the thing that people of African descent didn’t realize that the whole world admires African American people.” Kenneth Gamble
Beautifying the sounds of Black America was what was at the heart of Philly Soul.  Drenching the sound in strings, harps, orchestras and jazz backgrounds.  The vocals came from the Doo Wop sound and the feminine falsetto came into vogue for lead male vocalists.  The message in the music was positive and uplifting “Wake Up Everybody” “Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now” to the direct MFSB’s “Love is the Message”.  Motown would move from it’s namesake to California and Philadelphia would become Soul’s Capital through the 70′s.
Solomon Burke like Soul music was literally born in Church.  Singing and with his own congregation and radio show all before he was a teenager, Solomon Burke was always larger than life.  He like many in his generation was blessed with a talent too big to just fit into Sunday morning.  He along with Sam Cooke, Aretha, Ray Charles sang for secular crowds and formed the sounds of Soul.  One of Soul’s most gospel influenced voices Patti Labelle would take a style honed in the Church and take vocals to soaring heights.  With her group Labelle, Patti became a Disco Diva and her music continues to ignite dance floors.  
Two songwriting teams Gamble and Huff along with McFadden and Whitehead would produce the bulk of the music to leave Philadelphia and define the style.  Layers upon layers of sound.  String sections, horn sections, choirs, produced and slick.   The sound would expand on the lane created by Motown.  Eventually the sound became and merged with Disco.  It would influence and become the format of 70′s Black radio.  Hit after hit which are still played today by The O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, The Spinners, Billy Paul, Teddy Pendergrass were released factory style out of Philly.
Through the 80′s the Philadelphia sound continued and morphed into Quiet Storm and Smooth Jazz.  Hip-Hop would begin to get people dancing again.  A band emerged from Philly made of young Hip-Hop kids who took all that came before and merged Jazz, Rap and Soul into what can only be described by their name-The Roots.  Since becoming Jimmy Fallon’s house band the world has discovered the boundless talent of The Roots.
    From it’s birth to it’s present Philadelphia has always brought it’s famous brotherly love to the World in it’s Soul.

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