JOHN WHITEHEAD (1948 - 2004)
GENE McFADDEN (1949 - 2006)
Gene McFadden and John Whitehead are best known for their worldwide
hit with the dance anthem "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" from
1979. They also composed or produced career-defining tracks for
their Philadelphia International labelmates the O'Jays ("Back
Stabbers"), Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes ("Wake
Up Everybody", "Where Are All My Friends") and Archie
Bell & the Drells ("Soul City Walk", "Don't Let
Love Get You Down").
In a career stretching back to Stax with the Epsilons vocal group
in the 1960s, the duo worked, too, with James Brown, Gloria Gaynor,
the Intruders, the Jacksons, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Melba
Moore, People's Choice, Teddy Pendergrass, Lou Rawls and Stevie
Wonder. In the 1980s, the evergreen "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now"
was used by Philadelphia sports teams and became the anthem of soul
weekenders in the UK. It has been covered by the likes of Luther
McFadden and Whitehead came from the same poor Philadelphia neighbourhood.
They went to the same high school and formed a vocal group called
the Epsilons with Whitehead's cousin Ronald "Roame" Lowry
(later a member of Maze) and their friend Allen Beatty. When Otis
Redding came to Philadelphia in 1966, the group attended his concert
and met and sang for their favourite soul singer backstage. The
Stax star offered them a gig doing backing vocals on tour with him
and they jumped at the chance. They sang background on Arthur Conley's
smash "Sweet Soul Music", a song Redding had originally
earmarked for them, but, when he died in a plane crash in December
1967, the Epsilons floundered. Stax released "The Echo"
as a single in 1968 but the group went back to Philadelphia.
Undeterred, McFadden and Whitehead recruited James Knight and Lloyd
Parks and renamed themselves Talk of the Town for two 45s: "Little
Bit Of Your Lovin'" and "Don't Be So Mean" on North
Bay Records in 1971. They also began working for the songwriters
and producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who had just convinced
Columbia to bankroll their Motown-inspired Philadelphia International
Records. Originally recruited as chief mailboy, Whitehead watched
and learned from his bosses; soon he was determined to get them
to listen to "Back Stabbers", the first song he had written
with McFadden. Leon Huff added a piano melody and persuaded the
O'Jays to record it. "Back Stabbers" became a hit on both
sides of the Atlantic, earning the new label its first gold record
in 1972. Over the next three years, Talk of the Town released the
very collectable singles "Super Groover (All Night Mover)",
"Bumpin' Boogie" and "I Apologize" on the Gamble
and TSOP offshoot labels but they eventually split up. Notable among
their compositions is the gospel-like "Wake Up Everybody (Part
1)" written with Victor Carstarphen for Harold Melvin &
the Blue Notes in 1975.
By 1978, McFadden and Whitehead had amassed 22 gold records, two
platinum albums and two Grammy nominations but they were itching
to record again. "We had been helping other people rocket to
the moon." recalled Whitehead. "Gamble and Huff thought
we were happy as writers and producers. Finally, they agreed to
let us go into the studio record one song. The first thing that
came into our minds was: ain't no stopping us now!" They couldn't
follow up their huge 1979 smash and "I Heard It In A Love Song"
and "I've Been Pushed Aside" were only minor hits before
they both signed to Capitol for the "Movin' On" album
Whitehead subsequently served a brief prison sentence for tax evasion
and issued a solo album, "I Need Money Bad", in 1988.
He and McFadden reunited for corporate functions and nostalgia shows
in the 1990s.
John Whitehead was shot dead on May 11th 2004 while working on
a car in a Philadelphia street. Gene McFadden died from cancer on
January 27th 2006.
Perrone, The Independent)