Philadelphia has had as big an impact in popular music as any other city in the world.
Daryl Hall and John Oates, who both attended Temple in the late 1960s, are as big a part of that distinction as any.
Since they formed in 1972, Hall & Oates have sold 60 million records worldwide, produced eight No. 1 singles and continues to tour today, four decades after they first hit the road.
But, they are just a part of a long tradition of music in this city, labeled the Sound of Philadelphia as it expanded its international influence, at its height in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Philadelphia was a main hub of the music world,” Hall said. “Then, local radio played local music and created a local scene. Actually, Philadelphia was one of the few places, because of American Bandstand, that took its regional sound and style and brought it to the world.”
For Philadelphians of age, it is a source of pride no one can take away.
The piano and harmony based gospel sound distilled by legendary producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff defined this city’s long intermingling of Anglican sophistication and urbanized southern black soul.
“Those days are gone. I don’t think there is any place like that anymore,” Hall said.
But, a neighbor, Uptown Theater, on Broad Street near Susquehanna Avenue, is a museum of it all. It is shuttered and graffitied for now, but, as The Temple News reported in November, Linda Richardson and her organization, the Uptown Entertainment and Development Corporation are planning to have it opened again before 2009.
From 1951 to the late 1970s, the Uptown was an entertainment venue and grew legendary for its radio shows hosted by Georgie Woods and others.
“For people from a certain era,” Richardson told The Temple News last fall. “The Uptown was an icon, a place you wanted to be.”
For Hall, the Uptown gave birth to his career.
With the James Brown Band playing backup, Hall, then with the Temptones and before he played with Oates, won a talent show, which got him his first record deal.
“That was the beginning of my recording career. It was my musician’s clubhouse,” he said. “I got coffee for the Temptations, spent time with all of the names you know.”
Those acts of fame that performed on its stage read like a list of the most influential black musicians of the 20th century: Sammy Davis, Jr., James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, the Temptations, Little Richard, Sugar Ray Robinson, the Jackson 5, Ike and Tina Turner, even comedians like Redd Foxx and Flip Wilson. It was part of the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” a series of venues friendly to black entertainers that stretched from Philadelphia and New York City to Chicago and Detroit to Baltimore and D.C.
So, it is justifiable that Hall & Oates are a part of its history.
They have long been the vanguard of so-labeled blue-eyed soul, music made by white performers with the same style of black purveyors of the gospel-like sound.
Their sound is what gained them rarely rivaled popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly among black listeners.
They had a string of hit singles, including their first “Sara Smile,” and titles like “Private Eyes,” “Rich Girl,” “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” and “Maneater” from 1983.
Their album Big Bam Boom went double platinum in 1984 barely a year after Rock ‘N Soul Part 1 went platinum, too. In 1988, Ooh Yeah! did the same, in what became the start of a slow decline.
This past December marked the 25th anniversary of their first platinum record, H20, which went double platinum in 1984. They celebrated it by ending a winter tour at the Kimmel Center, bringing it back home to Philadelphia.
“Philly is really special. The sound of Philadelphia is so entrenched in my baby brain. No matter what you do in music. It is all Philadelphia to the core; it will be to the day I die.”
Indeed, though their popularity may have waned, this city, as it is known to do, has treated well its native sons.
Hall & Oates were a featured performance at last July’s rainy Independence Day celebration on the Ben Franklin Parkway.
There is little question what introduced the pair to this city.
“Going to Temple allowed me to become part of the nascent sound of Philadelphia,” Hall said.
Christopher Wink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.