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John Whitehead

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Biography

John Whitehead
Born: Jul 2, 1948 in Philadelphia, PA
Died: May 11, 2004 in Philadelphia, PA
Genre: Other, R&B
Biography
R&B singer, composer, and producer John Whitehead remains best known for the smash "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now," the disco-era classic he recorded with longtime collaborator Gene McFadden. Born July 2, 1948, Whitehead and McFadden were raised in the same impoverished Philadelphia neighborhood. Still in high school, they formed the Epsilons with Whitehead's cousin Ronald Lowry (later a member of Frankie Beverley's Maze) and Allen Beatty in 1966, Otis Redding saw the group perform and hired them as his backing vocalists. The Epsilons also backed Arthur Conley on his classic "Sweet Soul Music," but following Redding's tragic death the group's fortunes waned, and after the 1968 Stax single "The Echo" they dissolved. Whitehead and McFadden returned to Philadelphia, forming Talk of the Town with James Knight and Lloyd Parks. Two singles, "Little Bit of Your Lovin'" and "Don't Be So Mean" appeared on North Bay in 1971; neither was a hit, and Whitehead went to work in the mailroom of the fledgling Philadelphia International Records. He and McFadden also began writing songs, eventually convincing Philadelphia International bosses Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff to listen to their composition "Back Stabbers." Recorded by the O'Jays in 1972, "Back Stabbers" became the label's first gold record, and proved a landmark in the evolution of Philly soul.

As writers and producers McFadden and Whitehead would go on to score 22 gold records, two platinum albums, and two Grammy nominations over the next six years -- their hits included Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes' "Wake Up Everybody" and "Where Are All My Friends," along with Archie Bell & the Drells' "Don't Let Love Get You Down." The duo also revived their Talk of the Town project, releasing the singles "Super Groover (All Night Mover)," "Bumpin' Boogie," and "I Apologize" on the Philadelphia International spin-offs Gamble and TSOP. In 1978 they returned to the studio as simply McFadden & Whitehead, recording "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" in one take -- Whitehead even made up most of the lyrics on the spot. The single was a global blockbuster, topping the Billboard R&B charts and later becoming a Philadelphia sports anthem, but the duo proved unable to generate a successful follow-up, with "I Heard It in a Love Song" and "I've Been Pushed Aside" barely scraping the charts. After 1982's Movin' On, McFadden & Whitehead went their separate ways -- the latter subsequently went to prison for tax evasion, issuing the 1988 solo LP I Need Money Bad following his release. He and McFadden reunited in the '90s, performing at corporate events and disco nostalgia shows. On May 11, 2004, Whitehead was shot to death while repairing his car on a Philadelphia street; he was 55-years-old. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi