2021 Introduction: In memory of the very talented songwriter and producer Bruce Hawes (who passed away on February 21, 2021), one of the primary tunesmiths of the Philadelphia soul scene responsible for hits by The Spinners, First Choice and songs recorded by Johnny Mathis, Dionne Warwick, The Three Degrees and many more…

Bruce Hawes: Young, Gifted, Determined

June 1979 interview

By David Nathan

Perhaps one of the most encouraging signs in the black music field right now is the slow but sure emergence of a whole crop of new, young and creative producers. Augmenting the established ranks of Quincy Jones, Thom Bell, Gamble & Huff, Jackson & Yancy, Maurice White, Skip Scarborough and Van McCoy are folk like McFadden & Whitehead, Mtume & Reggie Lucas, T. Life and Jimmy Simpson. Interestingly, many of those named have roots in Philadelphia — and we can now add to the list the name of Bruce Hawes who is sure to emerge within a short period of time as equally in demanded for the production chores which go into making the hit records that are made today. You may not be familiar with Bruce by name but, chances are, you’ve heard or brought one of the records he’s been associated with up until now. The Spinners’ “Mighty Love”, “Games People Play”, The Three Degrees’ “Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me”, “I Like Being A Woman”, recordings by Dionne Warwick, Johnny Mathis, The Whispers, New York City, MFSB, Gladys Knight, City Limits, and so on. In total, Bruce has been involved with one facet or another on a total of thirty-two albums since beginning his professional musical career just a few years back.

A native of Philly, Bruce has been “singing since I was three! I came from a musical family — both of my parents sang and we were involved as a family in a church choir that toured various places.” During his teenage years, Bruce was actively working with choirs in Philadelphia and at one point, taught a 120-member choir! At the age of 18, he “went secular! I’d been in college for business administration and I’d done real well but I knew that music was the field for me.” An introduction to Earl Shelton from Mighty Three Music (the publishing outlet for Gamble, Huff & Bell and a multitude of Philadelphia’s top writers) led to a meeting with Thom Bell and that in turn resulted in Bruce’s first recorded tune, “I Could Never Repay Your Love” on the Spinners. From there on in, “I was involved. I produced The Three Degrees on a few sides and continued to write and arrange.” Bruce says he saw his affilation with Philly International as “a stepping stone which gave me the opportunity to establish credentials” and when he left the organization a few years back “it was because it was time for expansion for me. I felt I wasn’t growing anymore and it was just time to move on.” After working with other Philly producers such as Norman Harris on projects with Double Exposure and First Choice, “I felt it was time to start building credits outside Philly.” To this end, Bruce has recently signed a special deal with Famous Music and with his own Industrial Strength Music company and has begun working on several production projects. “I worked with Eugene Record on Laurel Simon and I have a few other things to complete. There’s a five member female group who I’m sure are ging to be big, a jazz fusion act and a funk group. I feel that we’re still in a period where the market is open to new artists — look how many broke through last year alone. I want to utilize all my talents — writing, producing and arranging.”

Bruce feels that since he’s maintained a “positive and efficient approach”, he’s able to bring quality acts to record companies and he’s only involving himself with “acts that show some semblance of longevity — I’m only concerned with working with definite people — no one who’s unreliable and undisciplined. That way, I know I can get results because I approach everything in a definite manner myself.” Eventually, Bruce wants to work on his own recording project but right now, he’s concentrating on building his own roster of acts. With the enthusiasm and talent he’s already shown, there’s no doubt that the marketplace can surely use his abilities to the fullest extent.

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