Beautiful, simply does not describe the incomparable force known to the world as Patti LaBelle. As time continues to evolve, the soulful songbird’s name has become synonymous with grace, style, elegance and class. Belting out classic rhythm and blues renditions, pop standards and spiritual sonnets have created the unique platform of versatility that Ms. Patti is known and revered for.
It’s a small wonder that Patti has time for anything else in between recording and touring, but she makes time and the world is oh so happy that she does! Patti has written five best-selling books, Don’t Block the Blessings, LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About, Patti’s Pearls, Patti LaBelle’s Lite Cuisine and Recipes for the Good Life. More recently, she introduced Patti’s Good Life, a successful line of food products that features a variety of sauces, sweet potato pie and cakes and has starred in her own highly rated cooking specials on the Cooking Channel and Food Network.
In addition to her amazing career as an entertainer and entrepreneurial success, Ms. LaBelle’s work as a humanitarian is just as legendary. She remains an advocate for adoption, foster care, Big Sisters and the United Negro College Fund, among many other initiatives. While Ms. LaBelle’s celebrated 50-plus year career is respected world-wide, she has also endured and survived personal strife. Within a 10-year period, she lost her mother, three sisters and best friend to diabetes and cancer. In 1994, LaBelle was diagnosed with diabetes and shortly thereafter became a spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association.
The same motivation that had Patricia Louise Holte blossom from a choir member to lead vocalist for Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles and later Labelle, to a solo artist is the same energy that keeps her fire burning at seventy-one years young. “Each year I grow, and that’s a blessing from God. I do what I can do. I do what I feel God has given me the energy to do, so I just go out there and I do it…It’s not about making money because I don’t need money, but I need to sing. With a voice or without, I’ve got to get on that stage.” And the world is thankful that Ms. Patti’s voice sounds so good to our ears.
Born in Philadelphia on August 11, 1943, Kenny Gamble was always surrounded by music, and spent much of his youth working in the music industry. He cut his first records at local penny arcade recording booths, brought coffee to WDAS morning radio personalities Georgie Woods and Jimmy Bishop, and operated his own record store in South Philadelphia. In the early 1960s, his harmony group, “Kenny Gamble and the Romeos,” had a regional hit with “Ain’t It Baby, Pt.1.” The Rome-os’ lineup — which included songwriter Thom Bell and guitarist Roland Chambers — would establish a decades-long association between Kenny Gamble and his songwriting/producing partner, Leon Huff.
Gamble and Huff quickly discovered their shared love of songwriting and composing. “When me and Huff first got together,” Kenny remembers, “the first time we wrote, we must have wrote ten songs.
We were writing some songs for another group, the Sapphires.
Ten songs in one sitting. And it’s been like that ever since.” From that point onward, Gamble and Huff became the hottest independent R&B producing team of the late 1960s. He also sits on the board of directors of the Philadelphia Music Foundation, whose goal is to honor the legacy and accomplishments of singers, songwriters, and musicians from the City of Brotherly Love.
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.” As prolific songwriters for a host of artists, Gamble and Huff were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994. 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.
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.
45 years after the duo’s very first collaborations, Gamble and Huff were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with the newly-named Ahmet Ertegun Award (formerly the “non-performer category”), on March 10, 2008. In November of 2010, Gamble and Huff were honored by the City of Philadelphia with the renaming of the block of South Broad Street they made famous to “people all over the world” as “Gamble & Huff Walk” in a special ceremony.
Even with all these awards and accolades, Kenneth Gamble continues to write songs everyday, collaborating both with his longtime partner, Leon Huff, and developing other writers and producers in the Philadelphia area. With his current focus to improve the lives of others through his personal multimillion dollar investment back into the Afri-can-American community, and his personal decision to move his wife Faatimah, his sons Caliph and Salahdeen and his daughter Princess Idia back into his old neighborhood, Kenneth Gamble continues to make a difference both in music and life.
From the first moment his fingers pounded on the “C” keys in the opening melody to “Back Stabbers,” Leon Huff helped create and bring the genre of Philadelphia soul music to the world. Along with his partner Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff wrote or co-wrote more than 3,500 songs in 45 years, including R&B #1 hits, pop #1 hits, gold and platinum records, Grammy winners, and BMI songwriters awards honorees.
Born in Camden, New Jersey on April 8, 1942, Leon Huff was exposed to music through his mother. “That’s how the piano got in our house,” Huff remembers. “We had our own piano, we were the only family on the block that had a big upright piano in the dining room, up against the wall. My mother taught me some of the basics, but I had some formal teaching through the school system and private lessons. I still like to go to the churches to hear good music.” Encouraged by Madera and White to expand his musical horizons, Huff began writing songs. He wrote the first major hit for Patty and the Emblems, “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl.”
Leon Huff set up an office in the Schubert Theatre, where he met his future songwriting partner, Kenny Gamble. “Kenny was on the sixth floor and I was on the second,” said Huff, “and we used to pass each other in the elevator, but we didn’t know each other.”
Gamble and Huff later collaborated in Kenny Gamble’s band, the Romeos. The duo found they had common interests in songwriting and production, so Gamble and Huff formed a production company with offices in the Shubert Theatre and began a songwriting partnership that exists to this day.
By 1971, Gamble and Huff had formed their own label, Philadelphia International Records, and secured a distribution deal with CBS.
With a stable core of artists – the O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Billy Paul, MFSB, the Three Degrees, The Ebonys and The Futures, Philadelphia International had monster hits almost from the first day
of its inception.
In 1989, Huff and Gamble received their first songwriting Grammy, as Simply Red’s interpretation of the Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ classic “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” was awarded “Best Rhythm and Blues Song.”
On May 31, 1995, Gamble and Huff were inducted into the National Academy of Songwriters’ Hall of Fame. Songs that they have co-written and co-produced, tracks like “Back Stabbers,” “Cowboys to Girls,”
“Don’t Leave Me This Way,” “Enjoy Yourself,” “For The Love of Money,” “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” “Only the Strong Survive,” “If You Don’t You Know Me By Now,” “Love Train,” and “TSOP” have received songwriters’ awards from Broadcast Music International (BMI). 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.
Leon Huff continues to produce and write songs to this day and is never far from a piano or keyboard when the inspiration arises. He also watches as his son, Leon Huff Jr. (“Pop”), follows in his father’s footsteps, recording his own tracks that will someday be popular songs for the new millennium. Leon Huff himself continues to write and record songs daily. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife Regina, the love of his life. Leon continues to be “inspired, humbled and, more importantly, proud” of the music he co-created and its lasting impact on the world and people’s lives.