‘Sound of Philadelphia’ Producer Thom Bell Dies at 79

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Photo of Thom Bell - Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Photo of Thom Bell – Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Producer Thom Bell, who co-created “The Sound of Philadelphia” alongside Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff as the Mighty Three, has died at age 79. His cause of death was not immediately made known.

“Tommy and I have been best friends for over 60 years,” said Gamble in a press statement. “When we first met, we decided to start writing songs together and form a singing duo ‘Kenny and Tommy’ and then our band The Romeos… He was a great talent and my dear friend. Rest in peace buddy.”

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“Thom Bell was my favorite musician, arranger, songwriter, and music producer of all time!” added Leon Huff. “It was my esteemed honor and pleasure to work with him creatively and as a business partner. Rest in peace.”

Among Bell’s greatest works as he helped pioneer Philly Soul in the Seventies are songs like “La-La Means I Love You” by the Delfonics, “Rubberband Man” by the Spinners, “Backstabber” by the O’Jays and the Stylistics’ “I’ll Be Around” and “Betcha By Golly Wow.” He also produced Elton John’s song “Mama Can’t Buy You Love.”

For his work, Bell won the prize for Producer of the Year at the 1975 Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006. Russell Thompkins, Jr. of the Stylistics honored Bell in a Grammy interview for their Salute to Music Legends back in 2017, calling Bell “the major influence of my career.”

“That’s when I first started learning my craft,” he said. “And from the things that I learned from doing the sessions with him, it’s lasted me my whole career.”

The Mighty Three gave interviews for an a Sam Pollard-directed documentary about Philadelphia International Records, showcasing the trio’s work in spreading the music of Philly with the world.

“After six decades, we are incredibly proud to finally share our life stories with the world and showcase all the hard work that has gone into creating this great music,” the trio said in a statement earlier this year. “Our longtime fans and new fans will get a unique look into the creation of the Sound of Philadelphia with the themes of empowerment and love, to ‘people all over the world’ as we’ve always had a ‘Message in our Music!!!’”

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