20 Best Philly Sound Songs of All Time

The Philadelphia International Records 50th anniversary celebration continues with a list of essential tracks

The Philadelphia Sound
Illustration by Allison Aubrey

    50 years ago, the sound of Philly Soul was born out of the legendary Philadelphia International Records. With the talents of The O’Jays, Patti LaBelle, Teddy Pendergrass, The Three Degrees, McFadden & Whitehead, and others, the label rewrote the standards of soul music. To celebrate all P.I.R. contributed to the world of music, we’re publishing a number of soul features this month, and giving away The Story of Philadelphia International Records prize pack, which includes vinyl, a turntable, and speakers.

    How do you pick 20 songs that define an era — that represent a sound that means so much to so many people? It’s not easy, but the first thing that comes to mind is “emotion.”

    The Philadelphia Sound, made famous by Thom Bell, Kenny Gamble, and Leon Huff, endures decades after its inception. Songs by The O’Jays, The Stylistics, Patti LaBelle, and Teddy Pendergrass — to name just a few — will never go out of style.


    That’s a testament to the work of everyone involved, as they created everlasting soundscapes and wrote about universal topics that will always be a part of the human condition.

    With all of that out of the way, let’s get into the list, shall we? Here are the 20 best Philly Sound songs of all time.