“The Sound of Philadelphia,” a documentary on the 1970s “Philly Soul” sound and its masterminds Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell, is coming from Warner Music Entertainment, Warner Chappell Music, and Imagine Documentaries, in partnership with Jigsaw Productions, the companies announced on Wednesday. The lushly orchestrated but soulful sound — exemplified by songs like “Love Train” by the O’Jays, “If You Don’t Know Me Now” by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, “Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul, and “TSOP” by MFSB and the Three Degrees – famously known for its use as the Soul Train theme song.dominated U.S. radio in the mid-1970s and influenced all of the R&B that has followed, perhaps most immediately with David Bowie’s “Young Americans” album, and most recently with Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s Soul Sonic.
The Oscar and Emmy award-winning executive producer Alex Gibney (“Enron: The Smartest Men in the Room,” “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief”) has signed on to the project, 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).
The doc will include exclusive interviews and rare footage featuring the songwriters-producers Gamble, Huff and Bell – known as “The Mighty Three.” As the founders of the legendary record label Philadelphia International Records and architects of “The Sound of Philadelphia” (TSOP), the documentary will explore how they crafted their unique sound and music business prowess, not to mention a 3,500-song catalog.
The documentary will further explore the roles of Gamble, Huff and Bell (pictured above, L-R) in producing and writing major hits with world renowned artists such as the Jacksons, Dusty Springfield, Lou Rawls, The Three Degrees, Patti LaBelle, Nancy Wilson, The Temptations and the Supremes collaboration, Elton John and many more.
Gamble, Huff and Bell shared: “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. 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!!!’”
Warner Music Entertainment President, Charlie Cohen, commented: “Kenny, Leon, and Thom’s lasting impact on music and our culture at large cannot be understated. 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.”
Alex Gibney noted: “I am thrilled to co-produce this film about these exceptional songwriters, whose words and music continue to have an impact. And pleased to be working again with my friend Sam Pollard – who produced and edited ‘Sinatra: All or Nothing At All,’ a fine director with a profound understanding of music.”
According to the announcement, the documentary’s development is driven by Warner Chappell’s Creative Services department – which identifies untapped commercial and creative opportunities for Warner Chappell’s songwriters and catalog. It marks the latest project to come from WME and Warner Chappell’s partnership with Imagine Entertainment.