Entertainment behind the scenes
All aboard the “Love Train” in Beverly Hills. Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, the soul music Svengalis who wrote and produced the O’Jays’ peace anthem and about 3,000 other timeless tunes, received a lifetime achievement award at a star-studded black-tie dinner on Tuesday.
The pair picked up the Icon Award from BMI, a performing rights group that collects royalties on behalf of songwriters and publishers. Other awards went to pop singer Colbie Caillat and country star Taylor Swift, the co-writers of some of BMI’s biggest songs of the past year.
But Gamble, 65 (right), and Huff, 67, were the main attractions at the Regent Beverly Wilshire event. In a mini tribute concert, Gavin DeGraw performed “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” Estelle took on “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and Michael Buble did “Me and Mrs. Jones” — all R&B classics churned out by the duo’s Philadelphia International Records label during the 1970s.
Huff fondly recalled his early days as a studio musician in New York, playing piano on tunes for pioneering producers such as Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who were in the audience, and Phil Spector, who was otherwise detained. He and Gamble met at the Brill Building, the legendary songwriters factory in Manhattan, and a lucrative 40-year-plus partnership was born.