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Thom Bell, Key Figure of The Sound of Philadelphia, Has Died at Age 79



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Within the music trade, he was one of many people who made the world go round

Thom Bell, the Jamaica-born, Philadelphia-raised songwriter, arranger, multi-instrumentalist, and file producer died on Thursday at his dwelling in Bellingham, Washington after a prolonged sickness, according to his wife. Bell is acknowledged as one of many architects of the Philly Soul fashion (often known as the Sound of Philadelphia). The Grammy-winner who combined lush orchestral strings with funky R&B labored with artists like The Spinners, The Delfonics, Dusty Springfield, The O’Jays, Dionne Warwick, Elton John, and plenty of others. He was 79 years previous. 

Bell was a classically educated pianist, learning beneath Nationwide Medal of Arts-winner André Watts, and, as a teen, was a part of a singing group with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The trio, later mythologized by Philly Soul followers as The Mighty Three, would kind Philadelphia Worldwide Information in 1971. (One other an early pal was Daryl Corridor, later of Corridor & Oates, one of many greatest acts of so-called “blue-eyed soul.”) 

Considered one of Bell’s first hits was 1968’s “La-La (Means I Love You)” by the Delfonics, which he co-wrote, co-produced, and organized. Its mixture of a swooping, immediately recognizable melody towards an opulent mattress of strings and a crisp snare drum is an ideal instance the Sound of Philadelphia. 

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Sudden instrumentation was a Thom Bell specialty, just like the oboe introduction to “Betcha By Golly, Wow,” successful by the Stylistics in 1972 that Bell produced and co-wrote with lyricist Linda Creed, typically credited as Linda Epstein. Talking with NPR’s Terry Gross final yr, Bell remarked that there was some pushback at first towards the lengthy introduction to that tune. “I’ve heard many individuals say Black individuals do not need to hear that, and Black individuals do not do that, and Black individuals do not try this. That is a false impression. And these had been Black individuals who had been telling me they do not hear that form of music. Man, I ain’t . I did not imagine that. It sounded good to me,” he said.

It bought over one million copies.