It may be long overdue, but it’s still a great accomplishment; The Philadelphia Music Walk of Fame has been officially proclaimed a landmark by Philadelphia City Council.
Featuring more than 130 commemorative bronze plaques embedded along the Avenue of the Arts Street in Center City, it’s the most impressive public monument to the people who have made Philly an important music town over the years. The Walk of Fame is one of the defining features of the Philadelphia Music Alliance (PMA), the non-profit organization which was simultaneously recognized by City Council “for its promotion of the city’s unique and outstanding musical legacy.”
City Councilman of the 2nd District Kenyatta Johnson, who has been a longtime champion of the Walk of Fame and a key figure at the Walk of Fame induction ceremonies and galas, introduced the bill.
“This is a fantastic honor,” Johnson said. “Not only for the Philadelphia Music Alliance, but for all of the region’s outstanding artists, writers, producers and music industry professionals whose accomplished bodies of work have been embraced by music fans around the world,”
“Proclaiming the Walk of Fame a Philadelphia landmark firmly positions it as the tourist destination it was always intended to be. The Walk has been steadily expanding for 31 years, and there “‘ain’t no stoppin’ us now!’” added Alan Rubens, Chairman of the PMA, in an enthusiastic nod to the 1979 hit by McFadden & Whitehead.
The timing for the affirmation couldn’t be better. Philadelphia City Council is recognizing the Walk of Fame just as the Philadelphia Music Alliance has begun accepting proposals to implement technology advancements that would bring the Walk to life as a tourist destination. This summer, the PMA will be announcing the next group of inductees to be honored as the Class of 2017 and celebrated at a star-studded Gala.
Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Marian Anderson, and Dick Clark were among the first inductees in 1987 who contributed to the early significance of this Philadelphia landmark. And this month the PMA has expanded its Board by welcoming the additions of James J. Cuorato, president and CEO of the Independence Visitor Center Corp., and Joel Gibbs of Love the Arts in Philadelphia.
Last fall, the Philadelphia Music Alliance expanded its presence to Nashville as it oversaw the inductions of “Sound of Philadelphia” co-creator Thom Bell, the Sigma Sound Studio Rhythm Section, and Sigma Sound founder Joe Tarsia — all Walk of Fame honorees — into The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in a ceremony, and all-star concert at the Historic Nashville Municipal Auditorium featuring Garth Brooks, Ricky Skaggs, Bruce Hornsby and Russell Thompkins JR & the New Stylistics.
The Philadelphia Music Alliance was founded in 1986 as a joint venture between music executives and devoted citizens to promote Philadelphia’s “rich musical history” and preserve the city’s status as “one of the oldest and most distinguished musical capitals” in America, while simultaneously supporting its current music scene. The PMA shows its support through its dedication to the maintenance of music programs in schools and communities, through musical instrument donations, piano competitions, music education scholarships and grants, and more.
Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter of The Roots, whose acceptance speech at the 2015 induction gala, underscored the significance of the Walk of Fame by saying, “What better place to be immortalized in that way than on Broad Street, Philadelphia’s main artery. Our equator. Our Mason-Dixon Line, so to speak. It’s from these streets that we came, and now back to these streets that we return.”
Over the years, the Philadelphia Walk of Fame has inducted so many great musicians from the region who have made an impact on popular music. Chubby Checker, Will Smith, Aretha Franklin, Delco blues rockers Cinderella, Jim Croce, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Daryl Hall, John Oates, The Delfonics, Joan Jett and Frankie Avalon are just some of those honored in years past.
It’s been a big year already for Philly music as last December, it was announced that two giants of soul enshrined with bronze plaques on the Philadelphia Music Walk of Fame would be awarded the music industry’s highest honor by the Recording Academy, as Nina Simone and Thom Bell were among the 2017 Special Merit Award recipients.
Simone, known as the High Priestess of Soul, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Bell, a cornerstone of the Philadelphia Soul legacy in creating the Sound of Philadelphia with his “Mighty Three” partners Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff as a producer/arranger/songwriter, is receiving the Trustees Award.
The Lifetime Achievement Award celebrates performers who have made outstanding contributions of artistic significance to the field of recording, while the Trustees Award honors contributions in areas other than performance. The recipients are determined by vote of The Recording Academy’s National Board of Trustees.
Early this past June, Simone and Bell were both were honored at a special tribute concert and awards ceremony at The Beacon Theatre in New York City. Also among the recipients were Sly Stone, Shirley Caesar and The Velvet Underground.
To contact music columnist Michael Christopher, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out his blog at www.thechroniclesofmc.com