Tom Bell, 79, sound producer of Philadelphia, has died
Thom Bell has died, 79, the Grammy Award-winning producer, arranger and songwriter who, along with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, helped create the Philadelphia sound, which became world famous in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
His attorney, Michael Silver, filed a statement saying Mr. Bell died at his home Thursday in Bellingham, Washington. The cause of death was not immediately available, Silver said.
Part of Mr. Bell’s contribution to the Philadelphia sound were his distinctive lush orchestral arrangements. Mr. Bell, Gamble and Half were known as the “Mighty Three” when they developed the Philadelphia sound.
“Tommy and I have been best friends for over 60 years,” Gamble said in a statement. “When we first met, we decided to start writing songs together and formed the singing duo ‘Kenny and Tommy’ and then our band ‘The Romeos.’ Leon Huff and I were proud to be part of the music writing team The Mighty Three, which helped create our signature brand of TSOP. He was a great talent and was my dear friend. Gamble Half and Bell’s name will live on forever. Rest in peace my friend!”
In his own statement, Huff said, “Tom Bell was my favorite musician, arranger, songwriter, and music producer of all time! It was an honor and pleasure to work with him creatively and as a business partner. Rest in peace.”
Legendary musician and producer Neil Rodgers He also acknowledged the death of Mr. Bell.
“He is one of the greatest writers and producers of all time,” Rodgers wrote on Twitter. “And my condolences go out to his family and friends. He was the architect of the relationship between me and #BernardEdwards because we were the band of the New York City (I’m doing well now) Thom Bell smash.”
In a phone interview, long-time radio personality and family friend Diana Williams said Mr Peel “was a lively person. He was joking.” However, she added, “He led a very quiet life. Being famous wasn’t important to him.”
In a 2020 interview with The Inquirer, Mr. Bell talks about his songwriting and career in Philadelphia.
“I don’t write anything that’s hard on the ear,” said the 2006 Songwriting Hall of Fame inductee from his Washington home near the Canadian border, where he moved in the late 1970s.
“I don’t care whether James Brown is loud, loud, or anything else. Mr. Bell said.
Mr. Bell was born in Jamaica in 1943 and raised in West Philadelphia with nine brothers and sisters. Both of his parents were musicians – his mother was a pianist and his father played the accordion and Hawaiian steel guitar. Mr. Bell got his first drums at the age of four, and studied classical piano.
When his father opens a restaurant, Mr. Bell hears “Goin’ Out Of My Head” by Anthony and The Imperials on the radio – Mr. Bell’s family did not have a radio in the house. The work of two of Mr. Bell’s favorites – writer Teddy Randazzo and arranger Don Costa – “was the music I had in my mind,” Mr. Bell said in 2020.
Mr. Bell gave up classical music to make his own pop music with the support of his mother, who passed away earlier in 2020.
He and Gamble met when Gamble walked into Mr. Bell’s sister’s house and Mr. Bell was playing the piano in the living room. Soon they were together in a group called Kenny & the Romeos, playing regularly at clubs such as Hi-Hat in Loretta in Camden County. When Mr. Bell left, he was replaced on piano by Hoff.
Early in his career, he worked as a writer and tour guide for Chubby Checker. His first producing gig was for the Delfonics in 1968 and he penned their hits “La-La Means I Love You” and “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind”.
Mr. Bell wrote “I Can’t Take It” by the Orlons with Gamble in 1965. Mr. Bell wrote “La-La Means I Love You” with William Hart of the Delfonics in 1968. Mr. Bell did the string arrangement for “Back Stabbers” , a hit in 1972 for the O’Jays on Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International Records label.
He has had collaborations with Elton John, Teddy Pendergrass, Deniece Williams, and Johnny Mathis.
Mr. Bell has also worked with Dionne Warwick, Lou Rawls, Little Anthony and the Imperials, and Dusty Springfield.
In 1975, Mr. Bell won a Grammy Award in the “Producer of the Year” category, the first time it had been awarded in this category. Mr. Bell also later received another Grammy Award, the 2017 ‘Recording Academy Trustee Award’ as part of the ‘Salute To Music Legends’ televised show.
Later in his career, Mr. Bell worked with David Byrne, Joss Stone, and Fatboy Slim.
His most treasured partnership was with Philadelphia songwriter Linda Creed, who wrote “You Make Me Feel Brand New” for him. She died of cancer at the age of 37 in 1986.
“It’s like you and your wife, your mate. You know when it suits you. There aren’t many people with whom you can ride the spirit of life and love. You’re lucky if you can do it yourself, and you’re twice as lucky if you can do it with a partner”.
In 1993, Mr. Bell was awarded a star on the Philadelphia Music Alliance’s Walk of Fame.
Mr. Bell co-owns the 309 S. Broad St. building. which housed Philadelphia International Records with Gamble and Huff, before its demolition in 2015.
He came up with the name of the publishing company “Mighty Three”, and designed a badge with three elephants. “Because it’s the world’s largest land mammal,” he said, “and you can never forget our tunes.”
However, Mr. Bell was known for going his own way. He chose not to partner with them when they formed Philadelphia International Records in 1971.
“I am a very independent man,” said Mr. Bell. “I am not a follower. I am a leader, and the person I want to lead is me.” He often chanted a personal slogan: “You never know if you’re with the bell.”
Mr. Bell’s name was not as well known as Gamble and Half, but he said he was never bothered by it.
“I got what I deserve,” said Mr. Bell. “I felt good about making music. I got to make a few bucks. And I was able to think and do what I wanted to do. I’m in it for the love of music. It’s what makes my heart beat.”
Silver said Mr. Bell is survived by his wife Vanessa and children Royal, Troy, Thea, Mark, Sybil and Christopher.
Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.
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