Music News

Happy Birthday, Daryl Hall!

If Daryl Hall never did another thing, his place in music history would still be assured. Hall, who turns 65 today, is, of course, half of Hall & Oates, which, according to the record books, ranks as the most successful duo in pop history.

From the mid-'70s to the mid-'80s, the pair notched no fewer than six number-one hits -- "Rich Girl," "Kiss on My List," "Private Eyes," "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)," "Maneater," and "Out of Touch" -- a like number of multiplatinum albums, and another five top ten singles to boot. Considering the competition -- Simon and Garfunkel and the Everly Brothers come quickly to mind -- Daryl and John can pride themselves on reaching a rarefied plateau.

With all those kudos, it's not surprising that Daryl Hall's solo work has brought less attention than the efforts procured with his partner. Unlike Paul Simon, who kept a high profile even after his split with Art Garfunkel, Hall's individual efforts have attracted a more specialized audience as they've veered from the hit formula that fostered the run of hits. In fact, Hall took a substantial artistic leap when he went out on his own, venturing into realms that his fans might never have expected. 

Although the pair never officially split (their reunion albums earlier this millennium showed they were as popular as ever), there was definitely a lull in their productivity that lasted from the mid-'80s well into the '90s. In the interim, the two kept busy working on solo projects that excised their own creative ambitions. Hall's first, Sacred Songs, was an exercise in progressive experimentation that was produced by Robert Fripp, the ongoing instrumental mastermind of the definitive avant-garde combo, King Crimson. It was a strange combination, but the two definitely found a common bond. "Daryl's pipes were a wonder," Fripp remarked. "I have never worked with a more able singer."

While Hall's next efforts -- 3 Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine (1986), Soul Alone (1993), and Can't Stop Dreaming (1999) -- took more of a traditional tack, it was clear that Hall was intent on establishing his own identity away from the duo. He also contributed to the efforts of others, including Diana Ross, for whom he cowrote the hit "Swept Away" in 1984. The year after, he participated in the "We Are the World" sessions and the Live Aid concert that took place in his native Philadelphia.

Hall contracted Lyme Disease in 2005 -- he told Howard Stern he has a distinct disdain for all manner of woodland creatures as a result -- and while he was forced to cancel a series of dates scheduled for Hall & Oates, it didn't stop him from pursuing other projects. In recent years, he's dabbled in acting, making a guest appearance in the HBO Series Flight of the Concords and, more recently, the show Z-Rock, seen on the Independent Film Channel. Still, his greatest claim to fame in recent years has been his monthly webcast called Live From Daryl's House, a series of live concerts featuring a number of big-name guest stars.

Hall spends a lot of his time restoring old houses, a worthy endeavor for a man who's clearly made the money to scoop them up. However, fans of Hall & Oates might also want to take note of the fact that he has a new album out this month called Laughing Down Crying. Several songs -- "Talking to You (Is Like Talking to Myself)," "Wrong Side of History (So Cold)," and "Eyes for You (Ain't No Doubt About It)" -- are an unmistakable throwback to the classic blue-eyed soul he and his partner purveyed so ably, but the title track in particular stands out as a rugged example of Hall as an Americana journeyman. The song contains a telling lyric, which reads in part:

"So many times I've wondered
About the way to go
Should I believe in my past life
Or should I stay solo..."

As long as he can have it both ways, that choice can likely be put off for a while longer.

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Lee Zimmerman