Thom Bell, “Sound of Philadelphia” originator, dead at 79
Composer, arranger, producer and musician Thom Bell, widely regarded as one of the originators of the Sound of Philadelphia, died today at age 79. The news was confirmed by Philadelphia radio station WDAS.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1943, Bell moved to Philadelphia as a child, studied classical music, and planned to be a orchestra conductor, but ended up taking a job at 22 as a staff writer and conductor for Chubby Checker. That led to working with local Philly soul group The Delfonics, producing and arranging such classics as "La-La (Means I Love You)" and "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)."
Around the same time, Bell began working with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff who ran Philadelphia International Records, and together with their "Mighty Three" publishing company created what would become known as the Sound of Philadelphia.
Bell also worked closely with The Stylistics and The Spinners, and over the years also collaborated with Daryl Hall, Archie Bell & The Drells, Dionne Warwick, Elton John, the O’Jays, Deniece Williams, Dusty Springfield and more.
A documentary about the Mighty Three, titled The Sound of Philadelphia, is currently in production.
Rest easy, Thom. Your music lives on.