Daryl Hall, born Daryl Franklin Hohl, a 1946 Libra from Pottstown, Pennsylvania is known to most of us today as the singer-keyboardist of a very popular songwriting duo. But Mr Hall started life in music back in the early 60s where he was also a session player. And did you know he was once a backup vocalist for the Stylistics? That’s the Philadelphia group who cut one of this writer’s all time favourite soul songs of the 1970s, You Make Me Feel Brand New. I get emotional just reading that song title.
John Oates, the other half of the very popular songwriting duo, was born John William Oates, a 1949 Aries in the Big Apple of New York (but raised in the Pennsylvania suburb of North Wales). As a teenager, Mr Oates was taken under the wing of influential guitar player Jerry Ricks and taught many things about the great players of old blues music. However, the first concert he attended was at the age of four when he witnessed Bill Haley and the Comets in a local amusement park.
Both Oates and Hall attended Temple University when they began performing together in R&B and doo wop groups. As a songwriting team, it wasn’t long before they acquired Tommy Mottola for a manager, signed a contract with Atlantic Records and released their breakthrough song as Hall & Oates. As a rock and roll chick, I wasn’t a large fan of these boys in the 80s and 90s, but a re-visit to a live clip of 1973’s She’s Gone on the Old Grey Whistle Test, I was struck by how easily I could have been watching it on Soul Train. And what a truly great song it is. After reviewing their history for this article, I also have a newfound respect for Daryl Hall & John and will proceed to gloss over some of the highlights of their illustrious career...
After two albums, one of which was produced by Todd Rundgren, the duo left Atlantic and went on to sign with RCA. Bigger than the Both of Us, an album recorded at Electric Lady Studios in 1976, contained Rich Girl as the second track, and was the song that gave Hall & Oates their first #1 single. Just entering my teens at the time, I recall hearing Rich Girl on the radio a lot.
With the release of the self-produced Voices album, success continued to flow by way of Kiss on My List and You Make My Dreams Come True. Private Eyes, released in the summer of ‘81 featured two number one’s; the title track, and I Can't Go for That (No Can Do), a song which competed on the pop charts with Let’s Get Physical by Olivia Newton John and provided a crossover bridge to the R&B charts. Revisiting this great number, I was again struck by the opening’s similarity to Billie Jean by Michael Jackson.
Not even half way through the eighties and Hall & Oates were one of the biggest video acts on MTV, and one of the biggest pop music sensations in the U.S. of A. Brilliant at song structure, Out of Touch became their sixth number one hit. But 1982’s Maneater remains their biggest hit to date. Their work has garnered 19 gold and platinum awards and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced they had surpassed the Everly Brothers, England Dan & John Ford Coley, and Loggins & Messina as most successful duo.
In the mid-80s with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks from The Temptations, Hall & Oates recorded Live at the Apollo (the same venue where James Brown made his legendary live recording). The same year, the duo performed a concert in New Jersey to benefit the restoration of the Statue of Liberty which drew an estimated crowd of 60,000. Quickly teaming up with Ruffin & Kendricks again, they played to an even bigger crowd at Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium for the Live Aid concert benefitting African famine relief. The Hall & Oates backing unit was used for a portion of this; one of the largest-scale satellite broadcasts of all time, with an estimated 2 billion viewers. I actually attended that Philly show on July 13, 1985 and it was massive. Daryl Hall and John Oates also collaborated on the USA for Africa project, We Are the World, in 1987.
Celebrating the song writing team of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, and for the love of their hometown, Hall & Oates covered Philadelphia Freedom for 1991’s tribute album, Two Rooms. Further into the 90s and You Make My Dreams was heard in the romantic comedy film The Wedding Singer starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, and Maneater was featured in Runaway Bride starring Julia Roberts. Hall & Oates had become household names and were inducted into the 2004 American Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Another live effort came out of New York’s Troubadour Club, resulting in a 2008 cd/dvd package. And in 2009, their first box set Do What You Want, Be What You Are: The Music of Daryl Hall & John Oates was also released; the most comprehensive compilation from their catalogue.
They may have met on a freight elevator while escaping a Battle of the Bands riot at Philly’s Aldephi Ballroom, or was it during a record store fight? I’m not entirely sure, but by fusing rock, roll and R&B with strong hooks and melodies, Hall & Oates are considered today to be pioneers of rock and soul. The Red Hot Chili Peppers referred to them in their song Nevermind as "a couple of goats". But neither one of them are Capricorns. Oates is a ram, and Hall is a symbol of weights and measures both voted to the top 100 list of VH1’s Greatest Artists of All Time. Since their formation, over 20 albums have been released and 34 of their songs have charted on US Billboard’s Hot 100. Their trademark sound has been sampled by artists such as Simply Red, and Brandon Flowers of The Killers says: “Rich Girl is one of the most instructive pop singles ever written”. Members of the Hall & Oates band have included guitarist extraordinaire G. E. Smith, Caleb Quaye (guitar player, Elton John), and Bob Mayo, the late great keyboardist immortalized on the album Frampton Comes Alive!
Robert Fripp who collaborated with Hall said, "Daryl's pipes were a wonder. I have never worked with a more able singer." Recognized as a keyboardist, singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer, Daryl Hall has also been known to restore and preserve historic homes in both the United States and England. He has restored homes in Dutchess County, New York. In 2007, he began a free monthly webcast called Live From Daryl's House. Acclaimed by Rolling Stone, SPIN, and influential blogger Bob Lefsetz, the show has featured Smokey Robinson as a guest, as well as Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek of the Doors. The show also received the Webby Award for Best Variety series.
Recognized as a guitarist, singer-songwriter and producer, John Oates supports many charities and sits on the board of directors for the R&B Foundation. He did a fine job singing the U.S. National Anthem before Game 5 of the 2008 World Series and created a series entitled: The Stories Behind the Songs, which expanded into the annual Aspen Songwriters Festival. John Oates resides on a ranch in the rocky mountains of Colorado with his wife, son, 3 dogs and a flock of emus, llamas and alpacas.
At the beginning of December, Hall & Oates will embark on their 2010/11 tour which sees them play Hawaii and multiple dates in Japan. And for the city of New York, this multi-talented duo will have them dancing in their seats at the newly-restored Beacon Theatre on December 5th.
Photos courtesy of Mick Rock, Mark Maglio, and John Oates
Hall & Oates official website...
The Beacon Theatre