Philly Natives Patti LaBelle, Gamble & Huff to Receive Marian Anderson Award

The award recognizes acclaimed artists who have worked towards social justice.

Patti Labelle, | EdStock. Leon Huff and Kenny Gamble, via Charles Sykes | AP

Patti Labelle, | EdStock. Leon Huff and Kenny Gamble, via Charles Sykes | AP

Mayor Jim Kenney announced today that Patti LaBelle and Gamble & Huff will receive this year’s Marian Anderson Award. This is the first time since 2008 when Maya Angelou and Norman Lear were honored that multiple recipients have won the award.

The Marian Anderson Award is presented annually to “critically acclaimed artists who have impacted society in a positive way, either through their work or their support for an important cause,” according to the award’s website. The award’s namesake is one of the most celebrated contraltos of the twentieth century. Born in Philadelphia and denied entry into music programs because she was African American, Marian Anderson became a central figure in the early battles for civil rights. She will be memorialized on the back of the new $5 bill. 

Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff are the acclaimed songwriting and producing team that launched Philadelphia International Records in 1971. They have written numerous gold and platinum records and Grammy Award winning songs. This year’s Fourth of July celebration will be an homage to the duo, instead of the Roots performance that had become a recent tradition.

“Not only did we dance, but we listened to what they had to say,” said Kenney of Gamble & Huff’s music during his announcement.

Gamble has been deeply involved in development in South Philadelphia. Gamble’s team “Universal Companies” has purchased over 100 condemned properties that were turned into affordable housing and rented to low-income and middle-income families.

LaBelle is often called “The Godmother of Soul.” She was the front woman of a band in the 1960’s called Patti LaBelle and the BlueBelles, which was later shortened to LaBelle. They were the first African American act to play at new York City’s Metropolitan Opera House. She then went on to launch a solo career, winning three Grammy Awards and many other accolades.

Her philanthropic efforts have been targeted toward children’s issues as a whole, supporting adoption and foster care. She has also been an advocate of Big Sisters. Additionally, after being diagnosed with diabetes, she became a spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association. LaBelle is also a renowned chef, and her now famous sweet-potato pies have sold by the millions at Walmart.

The recipients will be honored at the annual gala on November 15th at the Kimmel Center. Tickets can be purchased here.