Pound for pound, Philly may be the best city for music along the eastern seaboard. DC, Baltimore, Boston? No. NYC is terrific, of course, but the City of Brotherly Love is no slouch. Eugene Ormandy and Leopold Stokowski led the Philadelphia Orchestra for seven decades, making it one of America's classical music treasures. The Academy of Music is the oldest extant opera house in America.
American Bandstand. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. The Dixie Hummingbirds. Bill Haley and the Comets. The Roots. Hall and Oates. Stanley Clarke. Samuel Barber. The Dead Milkmen. Jim Croce. Santigold. And on and on.
Elton shone a light on Philadelphia Freedom. The Boss wandered The Streets of Philadelphia. Martha and the Vandellas were dancing in the streets of Philadelphia, PA.
But when I think of Philly, the first thing that comes to mind is its soul music, that sound of the 70's that took funky beats, added horns and strings, incorporated jazzier melodies and harmonies, and sounded like nothing else.
Philadelphia International Records led the way. The label, founded by producers Leon Huff and Kenneth Gamble in 1971, often used a house band called MFSB (Mother, Father, Sister, Brother) made up of a few dozen studio musicians. You might know one song they recorded (with the fabulous Three Degrees) as the theme to Soul Train:
My personal favorite song from the label is by Rock and Roll HOF members the O'Jays, who also did "Love Train,'" "I Love Money," and "I Love Music" (lots of love from the City of Brotherly Love).
As for the Three Degrees, they are best known for their lush ballad of heartache, "When Will I See You Again?" Here is another great tune, but much more smoldering:
"If You Don't Know Me By Now" by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes is a stone cold classic, but it's been ruined for me as no other song ever has, to the point now where I start chuckling every time I hear it. The culprit? This indelible version:
Thom Bell, along with Gamble and Huff, was the producer/writer who defined Philly Soul. Stylistics, Delfonics, Spinners, among others, and this one:
Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't include a song for our buddy Ol' Weird Harold. This isn't Philly Soul, but it's a great song about a bunch of Philly kids: