|John Whitehead's grave marker in Philadelphia's Mount Moriah Cemetery|
John Whitehead, a three-time Grammy Award nominee became affiliated around 1971 with the production team of Gamble and Huff and "The Sound of Philadelphia" (or TSOP, on the Philadelphia International record label). The team of McFadden and Whitehead wrote their first hit, "Backstabbers" for the O'Jays, which became a gold record. It would be the first of many (37) Gold and Platinum hit records for the team of McFadden and Whitehead and Philadelphia International Records. They wrote songs for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Billy Paul, Teddy Pendergrass, The Jacksons, Archie Bell and The Drells, Lou Rawls, Freddie Jackson, and Melba Moore. "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 to record one song. The first thing that came into our minds was: ain't no stopping us now!"(ref.)
|Miniature golf tunnel in Philadelphia's Franklin Square Park|
Whitehead began his performing career at age sixteen (in 1964) and was managed by none other than Otis Redding. His career (and his life) unfortunately ended in 2004 when he was he was shot while fixing a car outside his West Oak Lane home (in north Philadelphia). Whitehead was 55 years old. He and nephew Ohmed Johnson were shot (Johnson lived) in an apparent case of mistaken identity. The crime has never been solved. Obviously Whitehead never made a fortune in the music business, as he was killed while changing someone’s car radiator hose behind his home.
The gunmen fired more than 10 shots from handguns and then fled, and police believe the shooting was not random.(ref.) In an interview with Whitehead’s widow in September, 2004 (four months after his death), Elnor Whitehead called the notion that her husband was a target nonsense. "I keep hearing all these crazy things … they keep saying he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was not in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was home."
Nearby the miniature golf green is an odd piece of granite with a Gamble and Huff inscription. It looks oddly like a grave marker. John Whitehead’s actual grave marker is prominently placed directly in front of the old brownstone gatehouse at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Southwest Philadelphia, just inside the fence off Kingsessing Avenue. (Many people strive to keep their name immortal, but end up having a headstone as the only tangible evidence of their existence. John Whitehead and Gene McFadden achieved much more, as their names live on through their music. (McFadden died in 2006 of liver and lung cancer.)
In case you're wondering about the words above John and Elnor's (not deceased) names, they are both Muslim. John converted to Islam in 1996. “Yahya” is a common Arabic male name; due to "Yahya (John the Baptist) being a prophet of Islam, it is a common name in the Muslim world." (ref.) The word "'Iman,' in Islamic theology denotes a believer's faith in the metaphysical aspects of Islam." (ref.) Mount Moriah Cemetery is one of the few cemeteries in Philadelphia that allowed (when it was active) Muslim burials.
References and Further Reading (and Listening!)
Listen to: "Ain't No Stopping Us Now"
Listen to: "I Got the Love”
Listen to: “Backstabbers,” by the O’Jays
John Whitehead biography
Spectropop Remembers John Whitehead Gene McFadden
McFadden & Whitehead on Wikipedia
Probe into musician's killing at standstill John Whitehead was killed four months ago, and no new leads have surfaced. Detectives turned over the case to a special task force.
Read more about Islamic burial rites here