|Cultural origins||Late 1960s, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Typical instruments||Strings - Horns - Vocals|
Philadelphia (or Philly) soul, sometimes called the Philadelphia Sound or Sweet Philly, is a style of soul music characterized by funk influences and lush instrumental arrangements, often featuring sweeping strings and piercing horns. The subtle sound of a vibraphone can often be heard in the background of Philly soul songs. The genre laid the groundwork for disco and what are now considered quiet storm and smooth jazz by fusing the R&B rhythm sections of the 1960s with the pop vocal tradition, and featuring a slightly more pronounced jazz influence in its melodic structures and arrangements.
Due to the emphasis on sound and arrangement and the relative anonymity of many of the "style's" players, Philadelphia soul is often considered a producers' genre.
Philadelphia soul, or the sound of Philadelphia songwriters and producers, included Bobby Martin; Thom Bell; Linda Creed; Norman Harris; Dexter Wansel and the production teams of McFadden & Whitehead; and Gamble & Huff of Philadelphia International Records, who worked with a stable of studio musicians to develop the unique Philadelphia sound used as backing for many different singing acts. Many of these musicians would record as the instrumental group MFSB, which had a hit with the seminal Philadelphia soul song "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" in 1974.
Notable extensions of the Philadelphia sound were bassist Ronald Baker; guitarist Norman Harris and drummer/Trammps baritone Earl Young (B-H-Y), who also recorded as the Trammps and would produce records themselves. These three were the base rhythm section for MFSB, and branched off into a sub-label of Philadelphia International called Golden Fleece, distributed by CBS Records (now Sony Music). Soon after, Harris created the Gold Mind label in conjunction with SalSoul. Gold Mind's roster included First Choice, Loleatta Holloway, and Love Committee, all of whom would feature Baker/Harris/Young productions of their material. Their 1976 hit by Double Exposure, Ten Percent, was the first commercial 12-inch single.
The Salsoul Orchestra was composed of key players from MFSB. Salsoul Orchestra, as its name implies, leaned toward R&B-Latin-fused musical flavor. The group was conducted by one-time Mike Douglas television show bandleader/vibraphonist, Vincent Montana Jr., another founding MFSB member.
Philadelphia soul was popular throughout the 1970s, and it set the stage for the studio constructions of disco and urban contemporary music that emerged later in the decade.
Notable Philadelphia soul artists include:
- Gamble and Huff - songwriters and producers
- Instant Funk - songwriters, producers, and music group/band (Similar to MFSB)
- Bobby Martin - Producer, arranger and songwriter born in Ohio on May 4, 1930. He moved Philadelphia in 1951.
- The Dells - all-male R&B music group (Recorded an album on the Philadelphia International Records label in the late 1980s)
- New York City (band) - all-male R&B soul group produced by Thom Bell
- Thom Bell - songwriter and producer
- Linda Creed - songwriter
- Jerry Ragovoy - songwriter and producer, Garnet Mimms and Howard Tate
- Norman Harris - songwriter and producer
- Eddie Kendricks - singer (although signed to Tamla/Motown, Kendricks recorded two albums in Philadelphia, PA. The albums were produced by Norman Harris, a Philadelphia Soul songwriter and producer. Kendricks wound up scoring at least two hits, to include "He's A Friend" and "Goin' Up In Smoke."
- The O'Jays
- Jean Carne
- The Delfonics
- The Intruders
- The Jones Girls
- First Choice
- Patti LaBelle
- Loleatta Holloway
- Phyllis Hyman
- Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
- Lloyd Parks (The Blue Notes, Epsilons)
- McFadden & Whitehead
- Billy Paul
- Teddy Pendergrass
- The Stylistics
- The Spinners (Atlantic Records era)
- The Three Degrees
- Cliff Nobles
- William DeVaughn
- Salsoul Orchestra
- Sweet Sensation (band)
- Gil Saunders
- The Trammps
- Blue Magic
- The Soul Survivors
- The Vibrations - based in the city and did considerable recording with Gamble and Huff
- Dexter Wansel
- Bobby Starr
- Eddie Holman
- Hall & Oates
- Ron Tyson
- Jerry Butler - some albums produced by Gamble and Huff
- Lou Rawls - (Philadelphia International Records era)
- The Jacksons - (Philadelphia International Records era)
- Barbara Mason
- The Manhattans (Columbia Records era)
- Grover Washington, Jr. - saxophonist who would eventually lay the groundwork for what is now Smooth Jazz
- Cummings, Tony (1975). The Sound of Philadelphia. London: Eyre Methuen.
- Jackson, John A. (2004). A House on Fire: The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514972-6.