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BrotherMen

Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff, songwriters/producers and co-founders, Philadelphia International Records

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Gamble & Huff

Photo by Lorenzo Bevilaqua

BrotherMen: They Were and Are Our Prophets and Griots, by Demetria Royals

BrotherMen Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, through their music answered that call at a time when, as Kenneth Gamble says, "people were looking for something, people were almost dead inside." That time, the late 1960s and early 1970s, was a time when the dreamer was dead (Martin Luther King, Jr.) but not the dream, and we needed someone again to remind us: "Keep on children, don't you get weary."

Leon Huff recalled: "We went on a creative rampage." Their music became a call to arms for my generation who were beginning to realize and commit to obtaining the tools of education and opportunity to come back home and save our communities in greater numbers than ever before. Such songs as "America We Need the Light," "Wake up Everybody" and "Let's Clean Up the Ghetto" helped us to "Keep on children, don't you get weary."

Yet also in this historical point in time, the official policy of the America government towards African Americans was becoming "benign neglect." And though a disproportionate number of us were coming back from Viet Nam in body bags and addicted to drugs, a new analysis and public policy was emerging as to the "root cause" of the Black poor, defining the cause of Black poverty as the heading of Black families by Black single mothers.

More of us might have accepted that analysis if Gamble and Huff had not responded with two songs, which today are known as Black anthems for Black families. The songs, "I'll Always Love My Mama," and "Family Reunion," played and replayed from vinyl albums to CD's, reminds us not to allow ourselves to be defined, but that we must define and articulate our own experience.

The late BrotherMan James A. Baldwin would agree by writing, "A victim who can articulate his own reality is no longer a victim; they are a threat."

So as not to become destroyed by the changing social and economic mood of the world and nation we found ourselves now facing, we were also reminded by Gamble and Huff, to "create children with wisdom in their heads" put there by mothers and fathers and an extended community, who once again stood ready to make sure that the next generation would not only survive, but endure.

As for me, I was studying in a New England prep school, aware that I was the recipient of the struggles and sacrifices of those who had risked life and limb so as to give my generation options they could only dream of. Many days I was lonely, but I was never alone.

I had my cultural markings constantly reminding me that my community needed and expected much of me. I had the music of Brothers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff.

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Artist Biography

Since 1963, the songwriting and producing team of Gamble and Huff has earned 175 gold and platinum records, defining an entire category of Black popular music known as "The Sound of Philadelphia," and dominating the pop and R&B charts for twenty years, while writing or co-writing over 3,000 songs.

Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff were awarded the prestigious Grammy Trustees Award -- an award reserved for such musical visionaries as the Beatles, Berry Gordy and Frank Sinatra -- from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 1999; they were inducted into the National Academy of Popular Music Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1995.

With such performers as Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, the O'Jays, the Intruders, Lou Rawls, the Jacksons, Billy Paul, Gene McFadden and John Whitehead, and many others, Gamble and Huff produced such classic anthems as "Wake Up, Everybody," "I'll Always Love My Mama," "Family Reunion" and "For the Love of Money."

In interviews filmed on location in the Philadelphia International Records studio (where the above hits were recorded), Mr. Gamble and Mr. Huff talk about their artistic collaborations and style, marking a period of musical history now known as the "Golden Age" of Black Soul Music with a Message.

Also included in BrotherMen is footage of Mr. Gamble on location in the South Philadelphia community where he was raised and returned in the 1980s with his wife and children to live. Mr. Gamble's commitment to the development of the community through his Universal Companies includes, among many projects, a charter school, a job training center and the renovation of over 100 houses for low-income families in the neighborhood.

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Selected Discography

"America We Need the Light"
By Kenneth Gamble, Donald Level & Billy Paul
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI)
From the album "When Love Is New"
(Philadelphia International Records)

Performed by Billy Paul

"Wake Up Everybody"
By Victor Carstarphen, Gene McFadden & John Whitehead
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI)
Performed by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes

"Family Reunion"
By Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI)
From the album "Family Reunion" (Sony Music)
Performed by The O'Jays

"I'll Always Love My Mama"
By Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff, Gene McFadden & John Whitehead
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI)
Performed by The Intruders

"For the Love of Money"
By Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff and A. Jackson
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. O/B/O Mijac Music (BMI)
Performed by The O'Jays

"You'll Never Find (Another Love Like Mine)"
By Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI)
Performed by Lou Rawls

Related Links

Philadelphia Music Alliance
Sony Music:
The Philly Sound: Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and the Story of Brotherly Love (1966-1976)

CNN: The Sound of Soul and R&B
Amazon: Philly Soul, The Philly Sound 1966-1976

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