The Sound of Philadelphia, a documentary that will recount the groundbreaking legacy of Philadelphia International Records (PIR) masterminds Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell, is now set for production. Warner Music Entertainment (WME), Warner Chappell Music (WCM) and Imagine Documentaries, in partnership with Jigsaw Productions, announced the news today (Feb. 2).
The Sound of Philadelphia will be helmed by Oscar- and Emmy award-winning executive producer Alex Gibney of Jigsaw Productions (Enron: The Smartest Men in the Room, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief), along with Peabody- and Emmy award-winning director Sam Pollard (Mr. Soul!, Sammy Davis, Jr: I Gotta Be Me). The film will also be executive produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Sara Bernstein and Justin Wilkes (Imagine); Charlie Cohen (WME); Ashley Winton (WCM); Stacey Offman, Richard Perello and Erin Edeiken (Jigsaw) and Amanda Ghost and Gregor Cameron (Unigram).
“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,” Gamble, Huff and Bell said in a joint statement. “We are even more excited to be working with the incredible teams at Imagine and Warner Music, as well as Alex Gibney and Sam Pollard. 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!'”
In announcing the documentary, Warner Music Entertainment president Charlie Cohen said, “Kenny, Leon and Thom’s lasting impact on music and our culture at large cannot be [overstated]. Their music is timeless, with the messages in their songs still resonating today. When Ashley Winton and the team at Warner Chappell brought us this idea, we immediately knew we had something special. And now with Alex Gibney and Sam Pollard signed on to lend their creative visions to the project, we’re excited to see this story come to life.”
Nicknamed The Mighty Three, songwriter-producers Gamble, Huff and Bell created a catalog of more than 3500 songs while simultaneously ushering in a symphonic sound that later became known as Philly Soul aka “The Sound of Philadelphia” (TSOP). The trailblazing trio’s influential classics include “Love Train” by the O’Jays, “Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, “You Are Everything” by the Stylistics and “TSOP” by MFSB and the Three Degrees — which doubled as the theme song for the iconic dance show Soul Train.
Along the way, Gamble, Huff and Bell wrote and produced hits for other music stars such as The Jacksons, Dusty Springfield, Lou Rawls, Patti LaBelle and Elton John. Never-before-seen footage and exclusive interviews will also chronicle how the Mighty Three built PIR into a highly successful Black-owned label and music publishing company, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021.
“I am thrilled to co-produce this film about these exceptional songwriters whose words and music continue to have an impact,” said Gibney. “And I’m pleased to be working again with my friend Sam Pollard who produced and edited Sinatra: All or Nothing At All. He’s a fine director with a profound understanding of music.”
“I was absolutely delighted when I was approached about directing a feature length doc about the extraordinary music creators Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell,” added Pollard. “They made superstars out of artists that previously toiled in obscurity through songs of peace, love, social conscience and turmoil. I’m looking forward to working with my dear friend Alex Gibney again as we shine a light on the powerful, sophisticated and timeless ‘Sound of Philadelphia.’”