Always a socially conscious label, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Records released a compilation in 1977 that called for urban rejuvenation through the call: “Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto”.
The record featured some of the label’s great names: The O’Jays, Lou Rawls, The Three Degrees, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, Intruders, Billy Paul, Dee Dee Sharp and Archie Bell. All but four of the songs on the album were exclusive to it. Some were covers, such as Harold Melvin’s version of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talking’”, Dee Dee Sharp Gamble’s take on “Ooh Child” by The Five Stairsteps, and The Intruders’ remake of Gil Scott-Heron’s “Save The Children”. The highlight is Lou Rawls’ “Tradewinds”, which was first recorded by The Three Degrees in 1972 and in Rawls’ version also appeared on his When You Hear Lou, You've Heard It All LP, released shortly after Let's Clean Up The Ghetto.
The song here is the joint collaboration on the title track. Lou Rawls, whose “Tradewinds” preceded “Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto”, sets the scene with a spoken intro about the grime of the ghetto, backed by a funky groove created by the label’s backing band, MFSB. Then Billy Paul comes in, followed by Archie Bell, Dee Dee Sharp, Teddy Pendergrass and The O’Jays. The whole seriously funky exercise was arranged by the great Dexter Wansel, who lets the instrumentalists shine during the extended instrumental play-out.
Ghetto is our home
That’s where we live, where we live
Get some paint, fetch your hammer, your nails
If you broomed, you mop and you pails
We’re gonna wash it, polish
And make it all clean
Let's wash away all of the sins
Time for a new life to begin
In the ghetto