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The Essential Love Songs of Philadelphia: “Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul

Billy Paul | still from video

Every day leading up to Valentine’s Day this year, The Key is recapping 14 songs that scream “love” just as strongly as they scream “Philly.” The Essential Love Songs of Philadelphia continues with “Me and Mrs. Jones” from Billy Paul’s 1972 album 360 Degrees of Billy Paul.

Back in the day, in the late 60s and 70s, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Records produced their share of incredible love songs. From “Expressway To Your Heart” by the Soul Survivors and “La La Means I Love You” by The Delfonics, to The Spinners’ “Then Came You” and the smooth soul of “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” by Lou Rawls, L-O-V-E was this label’s bread and butter. That’s to say nothing of Philly International’s ultimate love man, Teddy Pendergrass, whose songs illustrated the full range of love; requited, unrequited, and in the timeless ballad “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (recorded in 1972 with Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes), tortured love.

But three months later, in December 1972, the now-classic R&B song “Me and Mrs. Jones” sat atop the Billboard Hot 100 in the number one spot for three weeks. The ballad — sung by Philly International legend Billy Paul (originally from just across the river, in Blackwood, New Jersey) and written by Gamble, Huff, and Cary Gilbert — was about marital infidelity, a secret love, and sung from the man’s perspective. On top of a smooth, sultry groove, and a memorable, dramatic string arrangement that heightened the tension of the affair, Paul sings “We both know it’s wrong, but it’s much too strong to let it go now,” about their daily meeting (“the same place, the same cafe, the same time”). Continue reading →

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RIP, Philly International Records producer, arranger and composer Bobby Martin

bobbymartinThe Sound of Philadelphia remains forever strong, albeit with one less person responsible for its creation. Producer, arranger and songwriter Bobby Martin, whose work was an integral part of shaping the legacy of Philadelphia International Records has died. He passed away in San Diego last Friday at the age of 83. While you may not know his name, you’ll likely know his work. Along with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, Martin was a crucial part of the team that wrote and produced so many of the great “Sound of Philly” songs we’ve come to love over the years. Martin arranged some of the classics like “For The Love of Money,” “Backstabbers,” “TSOP,” “Me & Mrs. Jones,” Let’s Just Kiss and Say Goodbye,” “Cowboys To Girls,” and “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” He gave a young singer named Patricia Holt her stage name – Patti Labelle. In addition to working on numerous Grammy award winning records Martin received a Grammy Award for Album of the Year award in 1979 for his work with The Bee Gees on the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever. Martin not only worked help sculpt The Sound of Philly. He also worked with Whitney Houston, Etta James, Dusty Springfield and many more. Below, listen to one of the classics, and watch an interview with Martin talking his early days in the music business.

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Listen to new music from Leon Huff


Leon Huff, one-half of the legendary Gamble and Huff songwriting and production team, has a new solo album out called Groovy People. It’s his second solo album, the first since his 1980 solo debut Here To Create. Listen to two songs below from the new album; a cover of “The Way You Do The Things You Do” originally done by The Temptations and “Groovy People” originally recorded by Lou Rawls. “Groovy People” was written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and appeared on Rawls’ 1976 All Things In Time. The album was recorded in Philly at Sigma Sound Studios.

The Way You Do The Things You Do by Leon A. Huff

Groovy People by Leon A. Huff

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Philly Phlashback: Philly bands on Soul Train

Time-Life’s recently released The Best Of Soul Train three-disc DVD set is filled with some classic booty-shaking performances, including a few that became exemplary of “TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)”. Check out Teddy Pendergrass’s sideburns and The Blue Notes’ costumes—but mostly just groove to these incredible songs that still remain fresh.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVC2j_Kdw8c&feature=fvsr

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p65sBNxoLbA