Inspiration for a song can come from just about anywhere. Even a traffic jam on the Schuylkill Expressway.
The songwriting team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff used their experiences on that particular highway to write their breakthrough hit “Expressway to Your Heart” for the Soul Survivors in 1967.
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"There's always been traffic jams on the Schuylkill, even when it opened back then," says Gamble, who came up with the idea for "Expressway to your Heart" while stuck on the road.
So began a string of hits and a creative vitality that has lasted to this day. The duo has penned more than 3,000 songs, including “Back Stabbers,” “Love Train,” “For the Love of Money” (or “The Apprentice” theme), “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “Cowboys to Girls,” “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” and “TSOP” (better known as the “Soul Train” theme). They are the architects of The Sound of Philadelphia and will participate in the How I Wrote That Song songwriting workshop on Saturday at the famed Sigma Sound studios on North 12th Street.
Hot 107.9 (WPHI-FM), 100.3 Old School (WRNB-FM) and BMI are the presenters of the event. Gamble and Huff will participate on a legends panel with James Mtume and Pop Wansel, while Oak Felder and the Phatboiz hold down the Generation Next panel.
“If you experience something, generally I feel that it’s also happened to a million other people,” Gamble says. “It’s one world and we’re one humanity and we all do the same things. If you can hit a nerve, you can reach the most people. We all drive on the expressway and we all fall in love. ‘Cowboys to Girls’ was a different angle [on love].”
Thom Bell, the Philly-based producer for the Delfonics, Stylistics and the Spinners, puts it another way.
“Every song is about love or escape,” says Bell, who is not scheduled to participate in the workshop but is working on a book with Gamble and Huff. “Even ‘Ave Maria’ is about love.”
If you go
How I Wrote That Song
Saturday, 1:30 to 6:30 p.m.
212 N. 12th St.