Joseph B. Jefferson

Philadelphia soul legend, "Mighty Love" writer Joseph B. Jefferson

For the millions upon millions of music fans who consider The Sound of Philadelphia of the 70s and 80s to be among the most glorious periods ever, today is a day of mourning. The great Joseph B. Jefferson, who was part of the songwriting team responsible for so many of the label’s big hits, has died.

Typically collaborating with his songwriting partners Bruce Hawes and Charles Simmons, Jefferson wrote or co-wrote soul classic after soul classic, including The Spinners’ "Mighty Love," "One of a Kind (Love Affair)," and "(They Just Can't Stop It) Games People Play," and the beautiful O’Jays ballad "Brandy."

Jefferson was a multi-instrumentalist who was touring with the Manhattans when Big Three Philly producer Thom Bell took him under his wing, mentoring him as a songwriter. Eventually, Bell – legendary for his work producing The Spinners, The Stylistics, Deniece Williams, Johnny Mathis and others - would bring Jefferson, Hawes and Simmons together and “assign” them to The Spinners as the group’s lead songwriting team.

The results are now legendary. In addition to the songs mentioned above, the team also delivered the #1 Spinners/Dionne Warwick song “Then Came You,” the concert favorite, “Sadie,” the group’s classic ballad, “I Don’t Want To Lose You,” and most of the cuts on their Mighty Love, New and Improved and Pick of the Litter albums. They also collaborated on other Bell productions for The Temptations, Major Harris, and Dionne Warwick, among others. His songs have been covered countless times by other artists.

As Bruce Hawes told me this morning, “Joe Jefferson was greatly talented. He was an intense competitor. Joe was ‘One Of A Kind.’"

Joe Jefferson’s contributions to 70s soul music are tough to overstate. He helped create a string of songs that are permanently part of our musical history, and that helped made Philadelphia the soul music capital of the world for a decade. Rest in peace.

By Chris Rizik

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