Kenny Gamble (I) makes a point, as Leon Huff listens, during a special session with press and students at Berklee College of Music prior to commencement ceremonies. Gamble and Huff received honorary doctorate of music degrees for their outstanding and innovative work in the music business, creating what was popularly known as the “Philly Sound.” (Don West photo)
|Paco de Lucia, Spain’s most influential flamenco guitarist, gives remarks after receiving an honorary doctorate of music at Berklee College of Music’s commencement ceremonies, held at Boston University’s Agganis Arena on May 8, 2010. This year’s honorary doctorate recipients were recognized for their achievements in contemporary music, contributions to popular culture and lasting influence on Berklee’s international student body. (Don West photo)
|Angelique Kidjo, African born singer, songwriter and humanitarian, received an honorary doctorate of music at the Berklee College of Music commencement ceremonies held at Boston University’s Agganis Arena on May 8, 2010. Kidjo, born in Benin, is internationally renowned as Africa’s most celebrated female musical exponent. (Don West photo)
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songwriter-producer duo of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff received honorary doctor of music degrees last week from Berklee College of Music.
The Gamble and Huff team formed in the late 1960s, collaborating as songwriters for multiple artists including Patty LaBelle, Teddy Pendergrass, the Jacksons, The O’Jays and Aretha Franklin.
Their teamwork led to the creation of the Philadelphia International Record label and what is referred to now as “The Sound of Philadelphia” (TSOP). They were responsible for more than 70 No. 1 hits.
Before receiving their degrees, Gamble and Huff participated in a luncheon hosted at the David Friend Recital Hall at the Berklee College of Music. Berklee and Boston Arts Academy students were able to attend a question-and-answer session led by John P. Kellogg, Berklee’s Professor of Music Business and Management and former O’Jay’s attorney.
Gamble and Huff’s career came to light through a brief video and dialogue with the audience.
It all started with a chance encounter they had with each other on an elevator. The gentlemen worked in the Shubert building in Philadelphia, a headquarters for artists and creative individuals that at the time had few African Americans.
“He worked on the sixth floor and I worked on the second floor so when we saw each other on the elevator, we had to say ‘Hey!’” said Huff of their first meeting. “During that time, we were all trying to make it,” he added.
Their first meeting of their creative minds resulted in six or seven songs.
“Most of our songs told actual stories, and that is probably why it resonated with listeners so much,” Huff said.
Though none of those first tracks became hits, they kept pursuing that magic sound.
Gamble talked about the story behind the story in their No. 1 hit “Me and Mrs. Jones” by soul singer Bill Paul.
“We would see this couple come in the same diner on a regular basis, and we later realized that’s not his wife” Gamble said, laughing. “Mrs. Jones wasn’t actually her name, but Smith and some other names just didn’t sound right,” added Huff.
Both Gamble and Huff expressed a deep appreciation to Berklee.
“To be awarded an honorary doctorate of music from The Berklee College of Music for our music career accomplishments is a feeling that goes beyond our wildest dreams,” they said in a statement. “We are very humbled and truly blessed.”
Larry Watson is no stranger to music. As a professor at Berklee College of Music and successful recording artist, Watson knows a thing or two about African American music.
During earlier generations, Watson explained to students during one of his recent classes, “Black music was the psychiatrist and the therapist ... You could turn on the radio, and there would be songs about the war, about civil rights, and about social justice … Now you don’t hear that in today’s music.” More »
It takes a freedom fighter like Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon to explain just how the freedom songs of the 1960s worked.
While most of the lyrics to these precious melodies were forged during the fight for racial freedom in the 19th century, student activists sang them nearly 100 years later while being beaten, jailed and even slain during the fight for equality waged in the ’60s. More »
BRINKLEY, Ark. — Is you is or is you ain’t a Louie Jordan fan?
The famed 1940s vocalist, bandleader and saxophonist from Arkansas gave the world a “jumpin’ jive” sound that influenced Ray Charles, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, James Brown and others. Jordan’s mix of jazz and blues, playful lyrics and strong rhythms excited audiences and made him among the first black performers to have crossover appeal with whites. More »