Bunny Sigler | via twitter.com/BunnySigler

One of the architects of the storied Sound of Philadelphia, Walter “Bunny” Sigler — a versatile songwriter, a record producer, singer and collaborator — passed away yesterday. He was 76 years old.

Born two days before Easter in 1941 (hence the nickname “Bunny”), Sigler got his start working singing in Emmanuel Baptist Church as a youth, where he was spotted by a local DJ, Leon “Cannonball” Fisher. His guidance led Sigler towards work singing on Junior Parker songs, as well as gigs and studio sessions as a solo artist.

Eventually, Sigler made his way to Philadelphia International Records founders Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff in the late 60s, who helped him release his first hit single, “Let The Good Times Roll” & “Feels So Good” on Cameo Records.  When that label folded, Gamble and Huff redirected Sigler towards songwriting, and had him collaborate on compositions with Eugene Dozier and others. His big break as a writer was co-writing The O’Jays’ “(You Are My) Sunshine” with Phil Hurtt.

From there, Sigler continued working with The O’Jays, as well as some of the label’s biggest names: he sang background on Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ iconic “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” co-wrote Billie Paul’s “I See the Light,” helped create Patti LaBelle’s “Somebody Loves You Baby (You Know Who It Is)” and “Love, Need and Want You,” and more.

Gamble and Huff shared the following statement with the press:

“I am truly and deeply saddened by the passing of my very dear friend Walter “Bunny” Sigler,” said Gamble. “He was one of the most talented, creative, and great songwriters and music producers I have worked with. He contributed so many great songs to our PIR artist roster from the beginning. Bunny also was a great singer, and performed superbly on many of our hit song as a background vocalist. More importantly, he was like family to us. And he was the best!”

Added Huff: “Bunny was one of my favorite producers and writers. I was honored early on to introduce Bunny to the Philadelphia music community, and to producer and songwriter legends John Madara and Dave White. I was privileged to write and produce his first and biggest hit, ‘Let the Good Times Roll.’ I truly loved Bunny Sigler and will dearly miss him.”

Beyond his work as a writer, Sigler released dozens of solo singles, 13 studio albums and continued collaborating into his 60s, co-writing “The Ruler’s Back” from Jay-Z’s The Blueprint.

Bunny Sigler and Jay-Z | photo via bunzmusicandrecords.com

Below, watch a 2014 documentary on Sigler, and find more of his music here.