A House on Fire: The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul

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Oxford University Press, Nov 15, 2004 - Social Science - 368 pages
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"If You Don't Know Me By Now," "The Love I Lost," "The Soul Train Theme," "Then Came You," "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now"--the distinctive music that became known as Philly Soul dominated the pop music charts in the 1970s. In A House on Fire, John A. Jackson takes us inside the musical empire created by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Thom Bell, the three men who put Philadelphia Soul on the map. Here is the eye-opening story of three of the most influential and successful music producers of the seventies. Jackson shows how Gamble, Huff, and Bell developed a black recording empire second only to Berry Gordy's Motown, pumping out a string of chart-toppers from Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the Spinners, the O'Jays, the Stylistics, and many others. The author underscores the endemic racism of the music business at that time, revealing how the three men were blocked from the major record companies and outlets in Philadelphia because they were black, forcing them to create their own label, sign their own artists, and create their own sound. The sound they created--a sophisticated and glossy form of rhythm and blues, characterized by crisp, melodious harmonies backed by lush, string-laden orchestration and a hard-driving rhythm section--was a glorious success, producing at least twenty-eight gold or platinum albums and thirty-one gold or platinum singles. But after their meteoric rise and years of unstoppable success, their production company finally failed, brought down by payola, competition, a tough economy, and changing popular tastes. Funky, groovy, soulful--Philly Soul was the classic seventies sound. A House on Fire tells the inside story of this remarkable musical phenomenon.

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Good but flawed
Seems to be the only easily available book on Philly soul. Very enjoyable read errors e.g Wrong title for Evelyn King's debut hit and no mention of Dee Dee Warwick suggests the author has little first hand knowledge of the music.


1 Ill Get By 19421962
2 Who Do You Love 1963
3 MixedUp ShookUp Girl 1964
4 Expressway to Your Heart 19651967
5 Cowboys to Girls1968
6 Only the Strong Survive 1969
7 Betcha by Golly Wow 19701971
8 Love Train1972
13 Philadelphia Freedom 1976
14 Kiss and Say Goodbye 19771978
15 Aint No Stoppin Us Now 19791982
16 Love Need and Want You 19832001
Epilogue 20022003
Song List
Gold and Platinum Records of Gamble Huff and Bell

9 Am I Black Enough for You? 1973
10 Ill Be Around 1974
11 TSOP The Sound of Philadelphia 1975
12 Wake Up Everybody 1975

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About the author (2004)

John A. Jackson is the author of the award-winning books Big Beat Heat: Alan Freed and the Early Years of Rock and Roll and American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock and Roll Empire. He lives outside Tampa, Florida.

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