Gene McFadden, R&B songwriter, dies

Posted: January 28, 2006

Philly music will never lose its soul, but the R&B community carries a heavy heart after recording artist and composer Gene McFadden lost his battle with lung and liver cancer yesterday.

Best known for the 1979 hit "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now," which became a Philadelphia sports anthem, Mr. McFadden, 56, died in his Mount Airy home of 15 years at 3:30 a.m.

A graduate of Addison High School in North Philadelphia, Mr. McFadden was half of the hit-making duo McFadden and Whitehead. John Cavadus Whitehead was shot and killed outside his Philadelphia home in May 2004. His murder has yet to be solved.

FOR THE RECORD - CLEARING THE RECORD, PUBLISHED JANUARY 29, 2006, FOLLOWS: Gene McFadden, an R&B songwriter who died from lung and liver cancer on Friday, graduated from Edison High School in North Philadelphia. In a story in yesterday's Inquirer and in early editions of today's Inquirer the name of the school was misspelled.

Patty Jackson, morning personality at WDAS-FM (105.3), said the pain of his partner's death took a toll on Mr. McFadden.

"He took the murder hard," Jackson said yesterday. "His battle with cancer was difficult enough, but after John's death, he got steadily worse."

WDAS plans to play music written and performed by McFadden and Whitehead throughout the weekend as a tribute.

Before they began scorching the charts in the '70s as producers, Mr. McFadden and Whitehead formed the soul group the Epsilons while in high school. Otis Redding soon discovered the band and managed the duo until his death in 1967.

After a short time with Stax Records, Mr. McFadden and his partner joined Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's legendary Philadelphia International record label as producers. Their talents bore immediate results, as their first song for the label, "Back Stabbers," took the O'Jays to the top of the R&B charts in 1972.

They went on to pen other hits in the '70s, including "For the Love of Money," "I'll Always Love My Momma," and the Grammy-nominated "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now," an uplifting disco track and chart-topper, originally written for the O'Jays but recorded by the producers themselves.

The duo was a mainstay at Philly International for 16 years, working with artists such as Melba Moore, Teddy Pendergrass, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder.

Chuck Gamble, executive vice president of Philly International, said yesterday that the impact of McFadden and Whitehead's work is incalculable.

"Clearly, McFadden and Whitehead were very instrumental in the success of this label. They could make a song fun, like 'Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now,' or awaken the social consciousness of people with something like 'Wake Up Everybody.' "

Philly International has mourned the deaths of three of its past artists this month. Lou Rawls and Wilson Pickett also recorded for the label.

The singer's daughter Casandra McFadden remembered the days when her father and Whitehead created songs in the basement, the car, or even at the dinner table. But more important, she recalled his message to her.

"The one part people didn't get to see was how loving and funny he was," McFadden said. "He always told us that we needed to stay together. He was all about family."

In addition to his daughter, Gene McFadden is survived by his wife of 38 years, Barbara, and children Dominic, Gene and Gina.

Funeral services are scheduled for Thursday at Triumph Baptist Church, 1536 W. Wingohocking St., in North Philadelphia. The viewing will be at 10 a.m., with services following at 11.

Contact staff writer Rob Watson at 215-854-5608 or rwatson@phillynews.com.

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