Hall and Oates still make pop dreams come true
By Jack Houston
Arif Mardin might not be a household name, but for 40 years, he was a key figure in the history of Atlantic Records, a producer and arranger for the label’s biggest names: Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Dusty Springfield and a pair of blue-eyed soul singers from Philadelphia, Daryl Hall and John Oates.
“He’s still the best producer I ever worked with,” said Hall, who teamed with Mardin on the duo’s debut album, Whole Oats, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. “Arif was a very special person. His eclectic abilities were extraordinary. Whatever artist he was working with, no matter what the style was, he knew how to adapt to it and bring the best in that artist out with his arrangement ideas and his general production ideas.”
While Whole Oats failed to reach the charts, a second collaboration with Mardin, Abandoned Luncheonette, featuring the hit single “She’s Gone,” set Hall and Oates on the road to becoming the most successful American pop duo of all time. During the MTV era, songs like “Maneater,” “Private Eyes,” “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” and “Kiss on My List” propelled Hall and Oates to even greater success.
Although they haven’t released a full album of original music since 2003, the duo’s legacy is alive and well. Frequent samples in hip-hop and R&B, placement in TV and movies and Hall’s web series, Live From Daryl’s House, which was recently picked up by the music channel Palladia, have endeared them to a new generation.
“Every kid that I know makes their own playlist. They don’t pay any attention to radio. Kids listen to what they want to listen to,” Hall said. “Time is an irrelevant thing, and eras are an irrelevant thing. People just grab what moves them, and I think there is a whole (new) generation of people who are relating to us from that standpoint.”