“Out of Touch”: Hall & Oates lawsuit, explained

Daryl Hall files a lawsuit against John Oates over the sale of their business stake, exposing decades-long partnership challenges.

Metal artwork of Hall and Oates on display at the Vantage off-campus apartment building. | FERNANDO GAXIOLA / THE TEMPLE NEWS

During the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Philadelphia was a music mecca. The music scene was vibrant and diverse, with a rich mix of soul, R&B, rock and pop. The city was home to a number of influential artists and groups and played a significant role in shaping the sound of the era.

Soul music was particularly prominent, and Philadelphia gained a reputation for its distinctive “Philadelphia Soul” sound. Artists, like Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, who later formed Philadelphia International Records, were instrumental in developing the genre. Philly Soul was characterized by lush orchestration, smooth vocals and a sophisticated production style.

Daryl Hall and John Oates would later become the famous duo Hall & Oates, were getting their start in the Philadelphia music scene at this time. They initially met while enrolled at Temple in the late 1960s and formed “The Temptones.” While The Temptones didn’t achieve widespread success, it marked the beginning of the collaboration between Hall and Oates.

“At the time, West Philadelphia was a hot spot for live music and both men were often out there for gigs,” wrote Alisha Nypaver, a music studies professor, in an email to The Temple News. “When the Adelphi Ballroom hosted a “battle of the bands,” both [Hall] and Oates’ bands participated in the competition.”

A fight broke out between rival high schools during the competition. Hall and Oates took cover in a service elevator, Nypaver wrote. It was there that they met, discovered their mutual connection to Temple and began their decades-long friendship. Oates graduated in 1970 with a degree in journalism but Hall dropped out to focus on local music opportunities.

In December 2023, Hall took legal action against Oates after more than 50 years of friendship and collaboration, claiming Oates couldn’t sell his share of their business partnership without Hall’s consent. The lawsuit came after Hall filed for arbitration, an alternative form of dispute resolution that resolves disputes outside the judiciary courts, on Nov. 9. 


Hall and Oates officially joined forces as a duo in the early 1970s and released albums like “Whole Oats” in 1972 and “Abandoned Luncheonette” a year later. These early albums showcased their eclectic musical influences, blending rock, soul and folk.

The duo worked alongside many successful industry titans in Philadelphia’s Schubert building, known as 309 Broad Street, as it was home to various music producers and songwriters, said Jack Klotz, Bell Tower Music’s faculty advisor and 1989 radio and film alumnus.  

“The Schumer building was home to a lot of Philadelphia songwriters and music industry people,” Klotz said. “They all had offices in those couple floors of that building, John and Daryl were among them and Kenny Gamble.”

Hall’s vocal sound was strongly influenced by soul music, particularly the classic “Sound of Philadelphia” soul scene curated by Gamble and Huff, Nypaver wrote. Hall & Oates’ 1973 song “She’s Gone” is their own version of the iconic Philly soul sound with soaring strings, bright horns and smooth vocals. However, even in their early work, the electric guitar foreshadows the new wave rock of their later hits.

As their style expanded, their music was increasingly difficult to categorize. Rock, disco and soul music had been fairly separate during the 1970s, but Hall & Oates fused all three in a way that perhaps no other musical groups managed to do so successfully at the time. They were also reaching both white and Black audiences, with hits on the Top 40 charts and a number one R&B single “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do).” 

Hall has addressed his experience with the color-blind nature of the pre-1968 music scene and acknowledged his presence as a white singer in a predominantly Black genre, highlighting what he believes is reverse racism and the labeling of his music, Pitchfork reported. Hall emphasized that his music is a personal expression, regardless of racial boundaries. 

“Scholars and journalists have explored the intersection of music and race in the case of Hall and Oates’ music, this focus has been upsetting to Hall who believes that musical style should transcend race,” Nypaver wrote. “Hall and Oates’ music was labeled “blue-eyed soul,” a term coined by Philadelphia DJ Georgie Woods to differentiate between the music of white artists that sounds stylistically similar to Black artists.”

Hall & Oates eventually achieved massive success with a string of hit singles, including “Rich Girl,” “Kiss on My List,” “Private Eyes,” “Maneater” and “Out of Touch.” Their music seamlessly blended elements of rock, pop and R&B, making them a staple on both pop and soul charts.

Klotz wasn’t into Hall and Oates’ sound as a child, but while driving to Main Campus one day, he flipped through the radio and landed on one of the duo’s songs. Klotz felt a connection to the former Temple students, so he fully listened to the song and was impressed with its sound.

“A lot of [musicians], especially the ‘80s period when they were wildly successful, got stuck in that ‘80s production value which a lot of acts carried over from the ‘70s suffered from making cheesy songs,” Klotz said. “But listening to their songs from a musical perspective, I was really impressed, it was really impressive with how expertly crafted their songs were.”


Hall and Oates’ dispute is centered around the sale of Oates’ stake in their business entity, Whole Oats Enterprises LLP, to Primary Wave IP Investment Management LLC. Hall accuses Oates of betrayal and blindsiding him, leading to a court-ordered pause in the sale.

Hall filed a lawsuit in a Nashville Chancery Court on Nov. 16, 2023 asking a judge to stop the sale by Oates so a separate, private arbitration could begin.

The legal battle exposes issues in their long-standing partnership, including alleged negotiations behind Hall’s back and disputes about the proposed sale timeline. The court proceedings involve private business holdings and agreements, with a focus on valuable assets like trademarks and record royalty income. 

“Being thoughtful early on about what rights you have and what rights you contribute to a shared project end up being pretty important and that in turn requires you to try to get some legal advice,” Jonathan Lipson, a Harold E. Kohn law professor at Temple’s Beasley School of Law.

The lawsuit between the duo has been highly publicized, but many court documents are still sealed and unavailable to the public. 

“Although I haven’t seen the partnership agreement, my guess is that when they went into partnership, they said, ‘Well, all the stuff that we create music, intellectual property, we’re going to put into the partnership,’” Lipson said. “So the royalties simply are payments from the use of those songs, and unless the partnership owns those rights, the partnership probably doesn’t make any money.”

The lawsuit also alleges that Oates violated a confidentiality provision by disclosing their business agreement to Primary Wave, which had previously purchased a significant stake in Hall & Oates’ catalog 16 years ago, Stereo Gum reported

The musicians contemplated a complete separation in late 2022, PBS reported . Hall indicated he was considering Oates’ suggestion to dissolve their touring entity and a distinct partnership linked to their musical compositions and publishing. Simultaneously, Hall put forward the proposal to dissolve Whole Oats Enterprises, which controls their trademarks, personal name and likeness rights.

Disputes regarding Whole Oats Enterprises escalated and reached a deadlock, prompting the musicians to engage in mediation in July. 

The filing alleges Oates secretly negotiated a deal with Primary Wave while Hall was involved in regular mediation tasks, causing him additional time and legal fees. Oates’ team entered into a non-disclosure agreement on Oct. 2, 2023 without informing Hall, providing confidential information to Primary Wave. 

Hall’s attorneys submitted proposed settlement documents to Oates’ team on Oct. 19, 2023, however Oates’ team hasn’t publicly commented on the documents. Oates sent Hall a transfer notice and a letter of intent outlining the sale to Primary Wave the following day, according to Hall’s filing.

The case is set for arbitration, with a Nashville judge halting the sale until Feb. 17 or until a resolution is reached. The full details of their business agreement are under court seal and the outcome remains uncertain.


Despite the lengthy ligation process between the duo, both have had accomplished solo careers. 

Oates has collaborated with various artists during the years, and he occasionally participates in special performances and events. Oates last visited Temple in 2019 along with other music industry professionals and participated in a panel discussing “A Day in the Life” of a music industry professional.

Oates has released seven solo albums since embarking on his solo career in 1999 and is continuing to perform and tour domestically and internationally.

“In John’s act, he performs under his own name, not only Oates, but just one of the things that I’ve heard him do on a couple of occasions, is to take an old Hall & Oates tune and play it in a different context,” Klotz said. “The one that really hit me was a tune called “You Make My Dreams (Come True),” which to my mind was the cheesiest of the cheesy 80s stuff, and he did it like a Texas sling song, and it worked.”

In addition to traditional tours, Hall has been involved in the web series “Live From Daryl’s House.” The show features Hall collaborating with various artists in a relaxed and intimate setting, often showcasing live musical performances. The show has spanned more than 11 years and 10 seasons since November 2007. 

From 2014 onward, each episode of the show has been filmed at Daryl’s House Restaurant and Music Club in Pawling, New York, The Economic Times reported

Even though Hall & Oates experienced trial and error and endured many criticisms, they are one of the most iconic bands of the 20th-century, Nypaver wrote. 

“Twenty-nine of the 33 singles from 1974-99 charted on the Billboard’s Hot 100, six of which hit the number one spot and in 2003 they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and they are still the most successful duo of all time,” Nypaver wrote.  

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