Bunny Sigler, Philadelphia Soul Mainstay, Dies at 76

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Bunny Sigler in 2009.

Credit
Mel Evans/Associated Press

Bunny Sigler, a singer, songwriter and producer who helped create the so-called Sound of Philadelphia in the 1970s, died on Friday at his home near Philadelphia. He was 76.

His lawyer, Lloyd Zane Remick, said the cause was a heart attack.

Working with the producers and songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, Mr. Sigler was a key figure in the development of the distinctive and very successful Philadelphia soul sound, characterized by lush orchestral arrangements and smooth vocals.

He wrote and produced songs for the O’Jays, Patti LaBelle and many other acts on Mr. Gamble and Mr. Huff’s Philadelphia International label. In a 2008 NPR interview, Mr. Gamble said that he, Mr. Huff and Mr. Sigler had also provided background vocals on songs like Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ 1972 Top 10 hit, “If You Don’t Know Me by Now.”

In a statement, Mr. Gamble called Mr. Sigler “one of the most talented, creative and great songwriters and music producers I have worked with.”

Photo

A 1967 album by Mr. Sigler.

Credit
J.P. Roth collection

Mr. Sigler’s productions for other labels included “I Got My Mind Made Up” by Instant Funk, a No. 1 R&B hit on Salsoul in 1979.

Ms. LaBelle’s 1983 single “Love, Need and Want You,” written and produced by Mr. Sigler and Mr. Gamble, was later sampled by OutKast, Nelly and other hip-hop artists. “If,” which Mr. Sigler and Phil Hurtt wrote and produced for the singer Jackie Moore in 1973, was sampled by Jay-Z on his 2001 track “The Ruler’s Back.”

Mr. Sigler appeared on the Roots’ album “Game Theory” in 2006.

Mr. Remick said that despite health problems that led to his being hospitalized for long stretches of time, Mr. Sigler worked to the end, posting songs and videos on his YouTube channel as recently as August.

Walter Sigler was born in Philadelphia on March 27, 1941, and sang in church before making his first records in 1959. He reached the pop Top 40 in 1967 with “Let the Good Times Roll & Feel So Good,” a cover of a 1956 R&B hit by Shirley & Lee. He went on to release several singles and albums, although as an artist he never had another hit that big; he was best known for his work behind the scenes.

He is survived by his wife, Martha, and two children.

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