Rivalry. Gunfire. A daring escape. These are not things you would normally associate with Daryl Hall and John Oates but that is exactly how the duo met. They were both students at Temple University when, while attending a band contest, rival gangs started shooting up the place and our two heroes ran into the same elevator. Somehow in the midst of their mutual terror, the two artists bonded over their taste in music. They were both involved with other bands at the time and they parted ways after that magical elevator ride but they soon met up again; Hall and Oates became Hall & Oates.
The two songwriters absorbed a multitude of influences into their style, going from soul and R&B to folk and rock. In 1972, music executive Tommy Mottola signed them to Atlantic Records but none of their early albums—Whole Oates, Abandoned Luncheonette, War Babies—became big successes. The duo created a lot of buzz inside the industry however, earning a reputation for soulful songwriting. In 1976, they left Atlantic for RCA and released Daryl Hall & John Oates (it’s the ampersand that makes all the difference). The album included the ballad “Sara Smile” which reached #4 in the charts. After that breakthrough, a song from the earlier album Abandoned Luncheonette was re-released to a better reception this time: “She’s Gone” made it to #7.
The next hit came with the more pop-sounding Bigger Than the Both of Us and the single “Rich Girl” which topped the charts, their first #1. Things cooled down for a bit after that until 1980’s release of Voices which included a slew of Top 40 hits. The duo followed that album with Private Eyes, a deft mixture of pop, soul and new wave. The title track reached the #1 spot, as did “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” also from the same album. This was the pattern throughout the early 80s, with hit after hit after hit.
After the release of the live album Live at the Apollo in 1985, Hall & Oates spent time on solo projects but were back together again two years later and on a different label. Did they have more hits? Why, of course they did. “Everything Your Heart Desires”, “Downtown Life” and “Missed Opportunities” came out of Ooh Yeah!—a platinum, if unfortunately titled, album. The duo continued to work and perform together into the 90s and beyond, never officially breaking up.
And there’s really no cause for them to stop their collaboration: they are one of the most successful songwriting duos of all time and their ability to cross style boundaries and blend soul and pop is near legendary. They have been covered, sampled and referenced by countless of artists that came after them and their influence is still going strong today.
If Hall & Oates helped to provide some of the soundtrack for your youth, we welcome your thoughts in our comments section. Tell us which songs hold particularly fond memories as we tip our hats to this formidable songwriting duo.