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Gamble, Kenneth (11 August 1943 – Present)

Entrepreneur, humanitarian, producer and singer-songwriter from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who wore many hats before becoming half of the blockbuster production/songwriting team, Gamble & Huff.  He sang on a variety of labels, including Arctic, Atlantic, , and Epic, fronted The Romeos, ran a record shop, and founded his own label, Gamble Records.  In 1963, he inked a deal with Columbia and released a solo record, “You Don’t Know What You Got Until You Lose It”.

Then he teamed up with Leon Huff and they embarked on a Grammy-winning, Hall of Fame producing and songwriting partnership that helped shape the sound of R&B for the next decade.  Their initial taste of top-five success occurred in 1967, when The Soul Survivors released “Expressway to Your Heart”.

In 1971, they founded Philadelphia International Records.  After Atlantic turned them down, CBS exec Clive Davis agreed to distribute their records.  They also opened their own publishing house, along with Atlantic phenom (and now a tunesmith for PIR), Thom Bell. The result was a hit-making machine that included Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, The O’Jays’ “Back Stabbers” and “Love Train”, and Billy Paul’s “Me & Mrs. Jones” among its credits.  In 1974, their in-house session players, MFSB, topped the chart with “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” which became the main theme music of Soul Train.  Kenneth got in hot water in 1975 when he was fined as a consequence of a payola scheme.  PIR continued to crank out the hits, however, and garnered a Grammy nod for Lou Rawls’ 1976 release, “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine”.

The hits were drying up, however, and so was Philadelphia.  Kenneth couldn’t help noticing his hometown was deteriorating, and fast.  He devoted his attention to cleaning up the neighborhoods and volunteering at The AMC Cancer Research Center and Hospital and The T.J. Martell Leukemia Foundation.  To further his humanitarian efforts, Kenneth established a non-profit outfit, Universal Companies, to help rebuild South Philadelphia.  He began by buying up dilapidated houses and rehabbing them.  They number over one hundred and plans are in the works to build over five hundred more.  Universal’s scope reached far beyond renovating homes, however.  Other projects with which it has been involved include a support network for businesses, a development program that provides education and training for aspiring workers, and Universal Institute Charter School, which counts over four hundred pupils in its ranks with nearly 1500 waiting to enroll.  His “Clean up the Ghetto” endeavor has reached beyond The City of Brotherly Love and into communities in Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles.  He has served on the boards of The Black Music Association and The Philadelphia Music Foundation, and teaches music at Raising Horizons Quest Charter School.

Kenneth and Leon have been named BMI Icons and Grammy Trustees, and have written 3000+ plus songs, resulting in over 170 gold or platinum recordings.  For their efforts, they have been enshrined in The Dance Music Hall of Fame, The National Academy of Popular Music Songwriters Hall of Fame, and The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  In 2010 they were award honorary doctorates by Berklee College of Music.

Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes recordings
Don’t Leave Me This Way (Kenneth Gamble/Cary Gilbert/Leon Huff)