When local Grammy-winning producer, bon vivant and my mishpucha, Aaron Levinson, calls you on the phone, screaming “we won,” you know that it has nothing to do with the Eagles. No No. No. Instead, Levinson’s extra dose of good cheer stemmed from the fact that, as of Friday the 13th, the Philadelphia Historical Commission, in a unanimous decision, turned Sigma Sound Studio on 12th Street into a part of the City’s register of historic places. This, after years of passionate intervention from Max Ochester of Brewerytown Beats/Dogtown Records, the legendary working crew of Sigma such as Jim Gallagher, the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and Levinson.
Less than an hour passed where members of the community – social, academic, historical and musical – spoke of the building’s importance to the world and local culture. Words were spoken of Teddy Pendergrass and Harold Melvin, of drummer Earl Young and songwriters such as McFadden & Whitehead. Words were spoken of visiting dignitaries such as David Bowie, Stevie Wonder and Elton John, of The Roots and The O’Jays., of Gamble, Huff and Bell…
“And what the panel decided, finally, was that this non-descript building, this nothing two-story brick building on Spring and 12th Street… This property that has been owned for the last five years by a real estate company far away in another land with no concern or knowledge of who we are… Finally turned this building into what it truly is, and has been, forever. The center of the universe. The Black music universe. The Philadelphia universe.”
The Historical Commission noted that designation as such does not dictate use. And that the property owners and those who wish to save Sigma Sound must come to an understanding. But for now, no wrecking ball can crush his dream. And to quote McFadden & Whitehead, “Ain’t no stopping us now…”