Sony BMG Music Entertainment has entered into an historic agreement to license the complete catalog of music from Philadelphia International Records (PIR), the groundbreaking hit-making label founded by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff in 1971, to be released through Sony BMG Music Entertainment’s Commercial Music Group and Legacy Recordings.
The monumental PIR reissue project will be conducted under the direct auspices of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, the Grammy-winning multi-platinum- selling writing and production team who created one of the most recognizable and influential catalogs of pop and soul music ever recorded.
The Gamble-Huff collaborative chemistry generated a series of massive hits throughout the 1960s including “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” (a regional hit for Dee Dee Warwick later covered by Diana Ross & the Supremes and the Temptations), the Soul Survivors’ “Expressway To Your Heart,” the team’s first Top 5 record, and the Intruder’s 1968 breakout “Cowboys To Girls,” blueprints for the emerging trademark sound of Philly Soul.
In 1971, Gamble and Huff founded PIR as the outlet for their creative vision. Building a stable of Philly-based talent — including Patti LaBelle, Archie Bell & the Drells, Jerry Butler, the Ebonys, the Intruders, the O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Billy Paul, MFSB, the Three Degrees, Teddy Pendergrass, Lou Rawls, to name a few — PIR recordings reached the tops of the charts from day one, at one point selling more than 10 million records in a nine month period, with hits like Billy Paul’s “Me & Mrs. Jones,” a Grammy-winning #1 pop and R&B smash, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” and the O’Jay’s “Backstabbers” and “Love Train.”
“We are extremely glad and ecstatic about being back home with Sony BMG to continue the partnership that helped launch this incredible music 35 years ago,” said PIR co-founders Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. “This is a fantastic opportunity to bring the sounds of Philly Soul to new and established audiences in fresh and exciting ways. We’re honored to know that the R&B and soul music we love so much will continue to provide the soundtrack to the lives of so many fans, young and old, all over the world.”
“The sounds of PIR are a vital and indispensable part of American pop music history,” said John Ingrassia, President of Sony BMG Music Entertainment’s Commercial Music Group. “It’s a thrill and an honor to be working directly with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff to find new ways of bringing classic Philly Soul music into the lives of music fans everywhere.”
In the early 1960s in Philadelphia, songwriter and performer Kenny Gamble and in-demand session pianist Leon Huff wrote more than 14 songs together during their first chance meeting. That fortuitous encounter led to one of the most prodigious songwriting and production partnerships in R&B and pop music history.
By 1973, PIR was second only to Motown as the largest African-American owned company in America. Over the years, the Gamble and Huff team has been responsible for 70 #1 pop and R&B singles and 175 RIAA gold, platinum, and multi-platinum certifications. To-date, the Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff partnership has produced more than 3,500 songs and won 5 Grammys.
Having been covered or sampled by a vast array of artists including Jay-Z, Babyface, Nelly, OutKast, Angie Stone, Simply Red (whose 1989 version of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” was a #1 record earning Gamble and Huff the Best R&B Song Grammy), Bette Midler, Mary J. Blige, Michael Buble, Kanye West, 50 Cent and T.I., among many others, Gamble and Huff songs and productions have entered the musical DNA of contemporary culture. It has been reported that one of Gamble and Huff’s songs is played on the radio somewhere in the world every 13.5 minutes.
One of the most sought-after and heavily licensed catalogs of music in the world, the sounds of Gamble and Huff have figured prominently in television programs, films and advertising spots for more than 30 years. MFSB’s #1 hit from 1974, “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” is best-known as the theme song for “Soul Train” while the O’Jay’s funk/soul classic “For The Love Of Money,” first released in 1973, enjoyed a massive resurgence as the theme song for Donald Trump’s reality show, “The Apprentice” in 2004. Gamble-Huff songs may be heard in the soundtracks for a host of recent Hollywood films including the Bernie Mac-Ashton Kutcher romantic comedy “Guess Who” (2005) and Eddie Murphy’s 1996 hit “The Nutty Professor.” Gamble-Huff songs have been used in high-profile television ad campaigns for Verizon, Old Navy, the Gap and Coors Beer, among many others.
With a catalog that has lasted more than 35 years, Gamble and Huff continue to receive national and international accolades with the duo’s music being prominently featured on such top-rated shows as Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice,” “Dancing With The Stars,” and “American Idol,” which have showcased such Gamble and Huff produced hit recordings as “For The Love Of Money,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and others throughout their respective seasons. Most recently, the NBC “Today” show honored Gamble and Huff for their more than 45 years of creative work as music producers.
Gamble and Huff and the PIR catalog have been bestowed with countless accolades and honors including the 1999 Trustees Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS & the Grammy Foundation) for their “significant contributions … to the field of recording.” For their historic contributions to dance, soul and disco music, Gamble and Huff were inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in September 2005. As prolific songwriters for a host of artists, Gamble and Huff were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994. Gamble-Huff artists and productions have received multiple awards from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation. Gamble and Huff were recipients of the prestigious Ivor Novello Award, presented in London by the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters, in 2006.
PIR became the birthplace, incubator and launching pad for the Philly Soul sound, a unique blend of R&B rhythms, sweet soul vocals, deep funk grooves, pulsing horn charts and lush string arrangements with melodic structures combining elements of pop, jazz and world music. A sophisticated sound lovingly crafted in the studio by some of the 20th century’s most influential producers and production teams — including Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, Thom Bell, Linda Creed, Gene McFadden and John Whitehead, Bunny Sigler, Dexter Wansel, Joe Tarsia and others — Philly Soul set the stage for disco, smooth jazz, adult contemporary music and more.
The new PIR licensing agreement will allow Legacy Recordings and the Sony BMG Music Entertainment Commercial Music Group to release PIR recordings drawn from the entire history of the label. The PIR reissue project will consist of releases in physical and digital media (including ringtones and other cell phone and PDA applications) and will include artist-specific and thematic compilations, new additions to the “Essentials” series, live and unreleased material, and many more secret finds and rarities to be mined from the deep and coveted collection of classic recordings in the PIR vaults.
The PIR reissue project will debut in October with two new double-disc collections: “The Essential Lou Rawls” and “The Essential Teddy Pendergrass.”
A major roll-out for the PIR reissue project is being planned for 2008 — the 45th anniversary of the first Gamble-Huff collaboration — with major releases scheduled throughout the year.
Legacy Recordings, the Grammy Award-winning catalog label of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, produces and maintains the world’s greatest catalog of digitally remastered titles in the historic reissue field, encompassing the genres of pop, rock, jazz, blues, R&B, folk, country, gospel, Broadway musicals, movie soundtracks, world music, comedy and more. Legacy’s primary resource is the vast 20th century archives of Columbia Records (including ARC, Brunswick, OKeh, and Vocalion), the Epic family of labels (including PIR), the archives of RCA Records (including Victor, Bluebird, Buddah, Kama Sutra, Groove and Vik), the BMG family of labels including Arista (including Amy Mala Bell), Jive, Profile, Silvertone, and Windham Hill, as well as such associated imprints as American, Bang!, CTI, Mainstream, Monument, Ode, and others.