"On Gratitude..." featuring Daryl Hall - Exclusive excerpt
DARYL HALL INTRODUCTION
For a lot of years, Daryl Hall was the Rodney Dangerfield of pop music, getting no respect. But whereas the late, great Dangerfield became a sweaty pop culture icon spattering his perennial indignities into riotous, necktie-twisting punchlines, Hall has worked a different kind of mojo as frontman for Hall & Oates, the most commercially successful duo in pop history with more than 60-million records sold and 34 Billboard Magazine Top 100 hits. Perhaps Hall's Nordic good looks, piercing blue eyes, and long blonde mane, along with the cheesy, if Zeitgeist-appropriate, hyper-art-directed band aesthetic didn't help the dynamic duo's quest to be taken seriously during their ubiquitous, mid-'80s run on MTV. In fact, it might be only now - in fact, possibly, right this second -- that you're realizing Daryl Hall penned the soundtrack to your life, or a critical part of it. Tunes like “Sara Smiles,” “Private Eyes,” “Maneater,” “Rich Girl,” and “I Can't Go For That,” they're resplendent gems of blue-eyed pop and soul, hooky, buoyant cornucopias of melody and uplift and universal sentiment, Hall originals that are so good you don't realize they're good for you too, and yet today, an entire generation of rappers and rockers - from The Killers to Kanye West, Wu Tang Clan to Bird and the Bee - name Hall & Oates a key influence on their work. It was bound to happen sooner or later.
Born 64 years ago into a Philadelphia-based family of musicians, Hall was by his own admission a “precocious kid,” captivated by the chivalric romances of fictional characters like Ivanhoe and Sir Galahad, in love with melody and “howling,” crooning for kool kats and frat boys on Saturday nights, then begging for forgiveness with the church ladies on Sunday mornings. By the time he was in high school, Hall was picking up 20-spots laying down background vocals and keyboard tracks with Philly greats like Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, Huff & Gamble, and Chubby Checker. It was at Temple University in the late-'60s that the fates truly intervened, thrusting Hall and John Oates together for the first time in the middle of an on-campus, dancehall knife-fight. A kitschy origin story, a genuine West Side Story moment, perhaps, and thusly, musical kismet occurs.
In 2009, Sony Legacy released Do What You Want, Be What You Are: The Music of Hall & Oates, a four-CD set that collects 74 of the duo's best tunes - yes, there are that many. The boxed-set is a testament to the enduring pop alchemy created by Hall and his most frequent musical collaborator, perennially-mustachioed John Oates. For Hall, programming the boxed set was a profound journey of self-discovery. “In the most basic way, putting this boxed set together was like watching home movies. “You put on a home movie, you see yourself at 8-years old, you go, 'Oh, look at that goofy kid.' You see yourself as people saw you, and that's part of what's cool, but you also hear your own intentions, and that's interesting,” Hall says, between taping episodes of his Web series Live from Daryl's House and restoring a 345-year old home in mid-state New York. “In a lot of ways, 40 years later, Hall & Oates is enjoying not only a resurgence, but an actual and true discovery of what we're all about, maybe for the first time, and that's something to be really, really grateful for.”
Born Like This. I learned really early on, like at 5 or 6, how to deal with what everybody calls the fourth wall - with what performance is. There's a difference between a performer and a receiver, someone who does and someone who receives. Now it takes two, of course. But learning all of that stuff when I was a kid, coming from the amazing musical family that I did, singing every Sunday in church, it prepared me for what I've done with my life. I never felt like I had all the tools I needed to be the best. But I always felt like I had enough. These are good things to know.
Singing For His Supper. Philadelphia is such an unbelievable melting pot, an amazing place to learn how to create, and it was populated - back when I was a kid - with some of the real greats, guys like Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and Donny Bell. They took me in, saw me for who I was, and really got me started. They introduced me to a whole world, a scene. They let me in. They put fire in my belly - strength and confidence. They'd put me on recording sessions. I'd hang around the recording studios, telling everybody what I could do, then doing it the best way I could. I was on the B-team. They had plenty of A-guys, but they'd lay down twenty bucks and drag me in and let me play some keys on their records or let me sing background vocals, until I had the chops to do it on my own. Until I was my own A-guy.
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