For the first time in a distinguished partnership that is nearing its 50th anniversary, legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songwriter-producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff will be honored together with doctor of music degrees during this year’s commencement ceremony at Berklee College of Music. Mr. Gamble also has been selected as the commencement speaker, and will address more than 860 Berklee graduates, their parents, and invited guests during the proceedings Saturday, May 8 at the 7,000-seat Agganis Arena at Boston University.
As architects of the world-renowned “Sound of Philadelphia,” Gamble & Huff are being recognized for their vast achievements and influence in music, and for their enduring contributions to American and international culture. Their message songs of peace, love, empowerment, social conscience and turmoil sold millions of records, as they fashioned the sweet, sexy, stirring, socially conscious Philly Sound at Philadelphia International Records (PIR). Gamble & Huff have recorded and collaborated with a galaxy of stars from the pop, rock, soul and jazz universes, including Michael Jackson and the Jacksons, Elton John, Lou Rawls, Teddy Pendergrass, Patti LaBelle, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Aretha Franklin, the Spinners, the Stylistics, the Delfonics, Dusty Springfield, Jerry Butler, Wilson Pickett, Labelle, Archie Bell & the Drells, the Soul Survivors, Laura Nyro, the Trammps, McFadden & Whitehead, Phyllis Hyman and Grover Washington Jr. Their songs also have been covered by a myriad of artists including Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, Bette Midler, Simply Red, Michael Buble, Johnny Mathis, Lesley Gore, Donny & Marie, Thelma Houston, the Brand New Heavies and most recently, Rod Stewart, who sings four Gamble & Huff classics on his current album, Soulbook.
Gamble & Huff will be presented with their honorary doctorates by Berklee College of Music President Roger Brown, who also will be recognizing Paco de Lucia, Angelique Kidjo and Kenny Barron at the ceremony.
Gamble & Huff join an elite group of industry giants who have received honorary Berklee music doctorates, including Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Aretha Franklin, David Bowie, Loretta Lynn and last year’s honoree, their dear friend, Motown great Smokey Robinson. One of Gamble & Huff’s earliest hits as songwriters, prior to creating PIR, was the Motown smash “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” covered in 1966 by the superstar combination of the Temptations and the Supremes.
“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,” said Gamble & Huff. “We are very humbled and truly blessed to be chosen to join a list of extraordinary luminaries.”
On commencement eve, as is Berklee’s tradition, students will pay tribute to the honorees by performing music associated with their careers in a private concert and ceremony at the Agganis Arena.
Next year marks the 40th anniversary of Philadelphia International Records, where the Gamble & Huff music machine generated over 100 Gold and Platinum records and over 70 #1 hits, including “Love Train” by the O’Jays, “Me & Mrs. Jones” (Billy Paul), “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes) and “Enjoy Yourself” (the Jacksons). In 2012, Gamble & Huff will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their historic songwriting partnership, beginning with their meteoric rise as writers and producers of early hits for the Intruders (“Cowboys to Girls”) and the Soul Survivors, who delivered the duo’s first No. 1 pop hit, “Expressway to Your Heart.”
Gamble & Huff became a hot independent R&B producing team in the late 1960s, leading to the creation of Philadelphia International Records in 1971. Almost from the day PIR first opened, artists began to dominate the charts. Within the first year, the O’Jays had #1 R&B and pop hits like “Back Stabbers” and “Love Train,” Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes were riding high with “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” and Billy Paul earned the label’s first Grammy with “Me and Mrs. Jones,” quickly turning PIR into a dominant force in the music industry. Within two years, Philadelphia International was the second-largest African-American-owned music company in America. And by 1974, Gamble, Huff and publishing partner Thom Bell placed over 25 songs on the pop and R&B charts, making Mighty Three Music the biggest-selling music publishing company of the year.
Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff have been giving back to their communities for decades, rebuilding inner cities and funding schools to educate students of all ages. They remain committed to a single purpose: the well being and welfare of their people, making lives and conditions better in the community, teaching responsibility and self-respect, encouraging people to vote and clean up their neighborhoods, and honoring the importance of family. They have received countless awards during their illustrious careers not only for their musical genius, but for their sincere dedication to address the plight of those less fortunate.
One of Gamble & Huff’s proudest moments in Philadelphia International history involves a song and album they recorded with the entire PIR roster, “Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto,” adopted by states throughout America. The ensuing non-profit campaign, which earned their first invitation to the White House, has evolved into a special personal dream – the renovation of Mr. Gamble’s South Philadelphia neighborhood – an ongoing accomplishment he continues to realize as one the largest community revitalization efforts in the city of Philadelphia’s history through his Universal Companies. Similarly, Mr. Huff has returned regularly to Camden, NJ, to enrich the lives of the underprivileged in his home town, through renovation projects, education, and leisure trips to school-aged children. Last year, he was honored by the city with the renaming of a street in his old neighborhood to Leon Huff Way.
Gamble & Huff are among the most prolific professional songwriters of all time, having written and produced over 3,500 songs within 35 years, an output that rivals such famed songwriting teams as Lennon-McCartney and Jagger-Richards. They are enshrined in five music Halls of Fame, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with a massive catalogue that includes numerous pop #1 hits, R&B #1 hits, 100 gold and platinum records, Grammy winners and BMI songwriters’ awards honorees. Featured prominently in television programs (“The Apprentice,” “Cold Case”), films (“The Nutty Professor”) and advertising spots (Verizon, Chevrolet, Coors Light, Old Navy, The Gap, Office Max) for more than 30 years, Gamble & Huff’s songs have entered the musical DNA of contemporary culture. In fact, one of their songs is played on the radio somewhere in the world every 13.5 minutes. With a stable core of artists led by the O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Billy Paul, MFSB and the Three Degrees, Gamble & Huff co-founded Philadelphia International Records and created monster hits almost from the first day of its inception. Songs they have written and produced together, like “Back Stabbers,” “Love Train,” “For The Love Of Money,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “Cowboys to Girls,” “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” “Enjoy Yourself,” “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” “Only the Strong Survive” and “TSOP” (better known as the “Soul Train” theme), have received songwriters’ awards from Broadcast Music International (BMI). Their songs comprise the most sampled R&B catalogue in the world, by artists such as Jay-Z, Usher, Cam’ron, Ja Rule, Jaheim, and Avant.
In 1999, four years after being inducted into the National Academy of Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, Gamble & Huff were honored by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences with the Trustees Award for their extensive body of work, both as producer and songwriter, and their contribution to the entire fabric of popular music, joining luminaries like Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, and Walt Disney. They have been inducted twice into the Dance Music Hall of Fame as well as the R&B Hall of Fame. In 2005, Gamble & Huff appeared on American Idol in a show devoted entirely to their music. In 2008, Gamble & Huff were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the first recipients of the newly created Ahmet Ertegün Award.
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