Walter “Bunny” Sigler, the singer and songwriter who aided the legendary production duo Gamble and Huff in crafting the “Philly Sound” of Seventies soul music, died Friday at the age of 76.
Sigler’s longtime attorney Lloyd Remick confirmed the singer’s death, adding that Sigler suffered a heart attack at his Philadelphia-area home Friday, the Associated Press reports.
“I am truly and deeply saddened by the passing of my very dear friend Walter ‘Bunny’ Sigler,” Kenny Gamble said in a statement. “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 [Philadelphia International Records] artist roster from the beginning. Bunny also was a great singer, and performed superbly on many of our hit songs as a background vocalist. More importantly, he was like family to us. And he was the best!”
Sigler’s biggest hit as a singer came in 1967 with a cover of Leonard Lee’s “Let the Good Times Roll,” co-produced by Leon Huff, for Cameo-Parkway Records. When the label dissolved that same year, Sigler began working with Gamble and Huff’s then-fledgling Philadelphia International Records, which became home to artists like the O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, the Jacksons, Patti LaBelle and Instant Funk, who often worked as Sigler’s backing band on the singer’s own LPs.
“Bunny was one of my favorite producers and writers,” Huff said in a statement. “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 truly miss him.”
Sigler co-wrote three songs, performed on and co-produced the O’Jays’ hit 1972 album Back Stabbers, which featured the Gamble & Huff-penned classic “Love Train.”
One of Sigler’s best-known tracks was Patti LaBelle’s “Love, Need and Want You,” a hit single in 1983 that was later sampled by artists like OutKast (“Ghettomuzick”) and Nelly (“Dilemma”).
“I’m deeply saddened by the passing of my friend and brother in music,” LaBelle said in a statement to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Bunny spent his life using his talents to bring love and joy to others and for that we are all grateful! He will truly be missed, but his legacy lives on!”
Jackie Moore’s 1973 song “If,” co-written and co-produced by Sigler and Phil Hurtt, was later sampled for Jay-Z’s The Blueprint opener “The Ruler’s Back.”
In 2006, Sigler appeared on the Roots’ Game Theory, providing vocals for “Long Time.” On Instagram, Questlove penned a long tribute for the singer.
“Brother Bunny. Philadelphia quiet storm of class, style & hits. A pillar of the #SoundOfPhiladelphia community. He wrote classics that stood the test of time,” Questlove wrote, compiling a list of just some of the artists to sample Sigler’s music.
“Definitely a highlight for us working with him. He was the DEFINITION of cool man. ALWAYS lookin clean. Whenever you needed him he was there (I asked him to sing at my dad’s services and he was like “say no more, you know we were almost in laws once” —-long family joke–) this cat will be missed man. Thank you for all you taught us.”