JOHN OATES – with Web-Exclusive Interview

Musician:  JOHN OATES

Video:  “Pushin’ a Rock”







John Oates’ mustachioed face and black curly ringlets of hair have graced bounteous album sleeves and music videos. The guitarist, singer and songwriter’s soft-spoken voice, humble attitude and laid-back demeanor permeated his dialogue with M Music & Musicians magazine during a recent interview. Reflecting on the creative process, humble beginnings in Philadelphia, 50-year working relationship with creative partner Daryl Hall, recording “We Are the World,” performing at Live Aid, and the importance of giving back; Oates connected the dots of his personal and musical journey to reveal a portrait of both the man and the artist who is one half of Hall & Oates, the most successful duo in music history.

John Oates – Photo credit Jeff Fasano

A baby boomer, John was born into the post-World War 2 Golden Age of Capitalism. Black and white images flickering on television sets reflected an era of American economic prosperity and values of the nuclear family with television sitcoms like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, in which the patriarchs always had the solution to any problem, matriarchs wore dresses and pearls to clean the house, and children were always immaculately groomed and respectful of authority. Oates began flirting with music as a juvenile in this sterile, highly-sanitized, two-dimensional world. He began singing literally as soon as he could talk, and still has a recording of a children’s song he sang at four years old. He began to play the guitar and take vocal lessons at the age of six, while Bill Haley & His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” ushered in a new genre of music for America’s youth. Add to this blossoming courtship, encouraging and supportive parents, and the result yielded is John Oates has never had any other job in his life except music. He accentuates the point simplistically, “The closest thing I’ve had to a regular job is teaching guitar lessons. It’s been a way of life for me. It’s not anything I’ve ever had to make a decision about. I’ve just done it—and people have always responded positively, so I never stopped.”

Philly Summer Of ’67, Record Hops & Gang Fights Forge a Creative Alliance
Blind faith and confidence in 1950s button-down conservative politics and societal norms dissipated by the 1960s. JFK’s Presidential assassination, the Beatles’ invasion, a burgeoning civil rights movement and an unpopular war in Vietnam reshaped the country’s political, cultural and musical landscape. These milestones for the counter culture occurred during John Oates’ adolescence.

Spending his teenage years in Philadelphia and on the campus of Temple University during the late 1960s, pursuing a journalism degree, would ultimately lead Oates to cross paths with his creative soulmate Daryl Hall. The subsequent relationship would produce 21 pop-rock studio albums with over 80 million copies sold by Hall & Oates. Great moments in history and fortuitous events are often disguised as innocuous and fleeting, and can occur in the most unlikely places imaginable. Philly had a population of over four million people when Oates connected with Daryl Hall.

Recounting this fateful meeting, Oates contextualizes how the creative alliance was forged by both the music scene and the gritty streets of Philly: “We were both teenagers in the Philadelphia area, we were both going to Temple University, but we didn’t meet at the school. Daryl had a group called the Temptones and they had a single out. I had a group called the Masters, and we had a single out. Both those records were being played on Philadelphia radio, especially the R&B stations. WHAT and WDAS in Philadelphia were the two premier R&B stations. So, I was aware of Daryl’s group and he was aware of my group. Our records were being played at the same time; they were released at the same time. We didn’t know each other. We were independently invited to perform for a DJ for a teenage dance, which was called a record hop in those days, and it was in a bad neighborhood in West Philly. While we were waiting to go on, a gang fight broke out, and we left the building. When we went down to the street, and were standing on the sidewalk, we kind of introduced ourselves, and that was how we met. From that point on, my group broke up and Daryl’s group broke up. We became friends, we hung out together, but we didn’t really work together. We just kind of hung out in downtown Philadelphia, in Center City, and that was the summer of ’67. We were friends for a few years and then after I graduated from college and went to Europe for a few months, I came back from Europe and Daryl wasn’t really happy with what he was doing independently, and I wasn’t doing much either. So the two of us got together and we began to write songs, and that’s how it started.”

Early 1970s Debut Whole Oats and Sophomore Effort Abandoned Luncheonette Reflect Roots
Youthful idealism and optimism of the 60s climaxed at Woodstock in 1969, but gasped its last breath as the decade came to a close. Charles Manson’s “Helter Skelter” murders, and an ill-fated free concert by the Rolling Stones at Altamont Raceway witnessed the wilting of flower power, replacing the bloom of a free-love hippie vibe with bloodshed, casting a dark aura on the future. Hall & Oates would release their debut Whole Oats and sophomore effort Abandoned Luncheonette for Atlantic Records in the early 1970s. The Me Decade favored egocentrism over altruism. Oates sets the scene for “Had I Known You Better Then,” the last song he wrote in Philly, before going to Europe, which would appear on Abandoned Luncheonette. Standing on Broad Street outside the Shubert Theatre, he caught the vision of a girl looking through a dirty, grimy bus window. The look only lasted a few seconds, and he wondered what would have happened had they gotten married and had kids.

“Philadelphia” Jerry Ricks, Oates’ guitar mentor and good friend, was part of the recording sessions for 1972’s Whole Oats and 1973’s Abandoned Luncheonette. Oates remembers Ricks as someone who gave him insight into the authentic way that a lot of these roots’ performers played: “Jerry really spent personal time with a lot of these amazing originators—people like Mississippi John Hurt, Doc Watson, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, and Robert Pete Williams. They used to sleep at his house and he got to see them play. He watched their fingers, he watched their hands, so when I was learning from Jerry, I was learning from the source. I wasn’t learning from a record. I was learning from those who actually did it. That’s why my playing is very authentic and to the original because I was basically there. Besides teaching me guitar, Jerry also taught me a musical philosophy of how to listen, how to be an accompanist—the subtleties, the real finer points of being a well-rounded musician, having dynamics, how to phrase all these things that go way beyond just learning your chords and learning how to plunk on the guitar. These are the things that make the difference between a really accomplished musician and someone who is just kind of playing the instrument.”

By the mid-70s, Nixon’s Watergate political scandal irrevocably snuffed out the last vestige of American innocence, and snaked its way into the lyrical content of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” Social acceptance of recreational drug use entered mainstream movies like Annie Hall. Hall & Oates moved from Atlantic to RCA Records, and their unique brand of adult relationship-based lyrics wrapped up in pop rock hooks, delivered with blue-eyed soul vocals, helped FM radio thrive. “Sara Smile,” “Rich Girl,” and “She’s Gone” crackled on transistor radios, and were front and center on the revolving stage of countless turntables. Oates wrote “She’s Gone,” which appeared on Abandoned Luncheonette, and he has played it at every show since then. And he’s not going to interfere with the formula for success.

Photo Credit Jeff Fasano

Mammoth Coifs, Mega Hits of the 80s, and What “Maneater” is Really About
America experienced another cultural revolution in the 1980s. Cocaine, fast money and coifs of mammoth proportions painted a pastel world of greed. Television merged with popular music and each became a vehicle to sell the other in the form of music videos. MTV was the network that picked up the torch and illuminated a brand-new way to sell music. Videos became marketing tools for artists, record labels and the network to expand their audiences with the help of exciting visual aids to package singles. NBC’s television series Miami Vice blurred the edges between reality and fiction, creating fashion-plate rock ’n’ roll cops behind the wheel of a Ferrari, as music hits of the era provided the soundtrack. Rock stars began to experiment more with the visual medium and acting, stretching their creative wings with cameo appearances on the hit show.

Hall & Oates continued to build on the foundation of their earlier success, with mega-hits in the 80s: “You Make My Dreams,” “Maneater,” and “Out of Touch” enjoyed heavy rotation both on radio and MTV. Choosing not to take themselves too seriously, the duo set themselves apart by delivering convivial music videos in a marketplace awash in a sea of mini motion pictures.

“You Make My Dreams” from 1980’s Voices, the duo’s ninth studio album, is described by John Oates as the feel-good song of the century. According to Oates, songs are often misunderstood, and such is the case with one of Hall & Oates’ biggest hits. He describes a place in Greenwich Village where he used to hang out, and a trip to Jamaica, that sparked his interest in reggae music. A drop-dead gorgeous girl walked into the club, and the first words out of her mouth were a dirty joke, placing her physical beauty in juxtaposition with her filthy vocabulary, which led to Oates thinking about the city of New York and its reputation of eating and chewing people up, before spitting them out, and that concept became the song “Maneater,” on 1982’s H2O, the duo’s eleventh studio album. In essence, the track is really about that aspect of New York, think a New York cab. When analog technology had reached its zenith, and digital recording was just starting, Oates bought a 4-track recorder. Although he wasn’t a synthesizer player, he did want to try it. In his Greenwich Village apartment, Oates fooled around with the synthesizer and discovered an interesting sound. He confesses to being stoned at the time. Oates brought it into the recording studio the next day, which is how “Out of Touch” the lead single from their twelfth studio album 1984’s Big Bam Boom came to life.

“We Are the World”—Ray Charles Right In Front Of Me and Bob Dylan Right Behind Me
Giving back has always been important to John Oates. It is one of his many character traits which has remained unchanged despite the record sales, music videos in heavy rotation on MTV and subsequent financial rewards. Over the years, personally as well as with Hall & Oates, he has participated in numerous charity type events whether it’s Toys for Tots or raising money for local and international causes. In 1985, John Oates was able to satisfy that craving to contribute and give back when Hall & Oates were part of USA for Africa and appeared on the all-star recording of “We Are the World.” The music artists and celebrity coalition humanitarian effort for famine relief remains to this day—the snapshot of selflessness in a decade defined by greed.

With the accuracy of an auteur, Oates frames the recording session, “It was an amazing experience to be part of ‘We Are the World.’ It was interesting because I think it would be very difficult to pull off something like that in today’s modern world. Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie were very smart because they set up the recording session right after The American Music Awards. Back in those days, there weren’t a hundred different types of award shows. There were basically two: The Grammys and The American Music Awards. Everybody who was anyone in pop music was going to be in L.A. at The American Music Awards. So they set up the session to happen immediately after the AMAs. Once the awards ceremony was over, everyone got into cars and went over to the recording studio. There were no managers, agents or handlers allowed in the room, which was great. It allowed everyone to be themselves, and people were just very casual and talking to each other. The thing that people don’t realize is that artists are kind of like the sun in their own little personal solar systems. They’re the center—they’ve got agents, managers, band members, hangers-on, roadies and technical people all surrounding them. It’s very difficult for artists to go outside of their solar system. So in a situation like this, all of a sudden there were no buffers or filters and everyone was just left to their own devices—and everyone just talked. Some people didn’t know each other. Some people knew each other well—and everything in between. If you look at the picture from the group shot, I was positioned with Ray Charles right in front of me and Bob Dylan right behind me. I thought that’s pretty cool—two people who I have the ultimate respect for. To be in that position, to be there and rub shoulders with some of the greats—it was amazing.”

The Ultimate Gig, Playing Live Aid with the Temptations and Mick Jagger
The potential of “We Are the World” was further realized in July of 1985, with two simultaneous concerts: one at London’s Wembley Stadium and the other at JFK Stadium in Philly. Artists on the star-studded bill included Queen, David Bowie, U2, a reunited Led Zeppelin, and Hall & Oates. The duo played with David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks of the Temptations, and Hall & Oates became the house band for the ultimate gig. Reminiscing about that day when “the City of Brotherly Love” sweltered in the hot summer sun and the world came together for music and a good cause, Oates offers his personal perspective on the enormity of the event and performing with his peers: “Well, I was aware that show probably at that time was the biggest rock or music show in history because it was simulcast around the world on television. Now in our modern era that seems like nothing because of the internet, but back in those days that was a very significant thing. I was aware of that, but I wasn’t nervous because I’d been onstage my whole life. In the 80s, we were at the top of our game, at that period in time. We were at the top of the pop charts, we were one of the biggest bands in the world, so it didn’t surprise me. And the fact it was in Philadelphia, our home town, it made perfect sense. So it wasn’t really a shock to me. I was really excited and we were looking forward to it. We also had Mick Jagger and Tina Turner, who we were going to back up. The Rolling Stones were on a hiatus at that time, and Mick asked us to back him up for that show. It was great to be able to rehearse with him and hang out with him. Then he brought Tina Turner out, and that was really exciting at the end. I felt like at that moment in time, we were meant to be there and it was great.”

John Oates – Colonial Theatre – Photo credit Rodeo Marie Hanson

A Solo Career and the Good Road to Arkansas
The excess and party ethos of the 80s could not be sustained. With the dawn of the 90s, the reset button of fickle youth culture had once again been pressed. Seattle’s grunge music assault and Nirvana killed hair metal while injecting new life in rock music, but the redemption the genre offered was fleeting. Pop and rock music had to borrow a page from Charles Darwin, and evolve to survive. The Notorious B.I.G., Shania Twain and Backstreet Boys dominated the charts in the 1990s with rap, hip hop, country crossover and boy band ear candy. By the end of the decade, new technology, the internet and file sharing application Napster presented legal questions and challenges for the music industry. Artists swam in these murky and difficult-to-navigate waters.

In 1999, John Oates embarked on a solo career, and to date has released seven studio albums. Introspectively, John examines the motivation for doing solo material and the significance of solo releases like Arkansas with the Good Road Band, as a vehicle that provides an additional creative outlet for music: “One of the things that I think has kept Daryl and me together over the years is that we looked at ourselves as individuals. We’ve given each other the room to expand and experiment and not be tied to the thing that we do together. We’re very proud of the thing that we do together and the legacy of music that we’ve made together, but we also realize that it’s important to be our own individuals. Daryl has done numerous solo albums and projects over the years. So we have both given each other the freedom to do that sort of thing.”

Journals Become Literary Adventures
Change of Season, John Oates’ autobiography published by St. Martin’s Press in 2017, went on to become a best seller for Amazon. In some ways, the tome is the natural progression of the journalism degree he earned from Temple University years earlier, and an accomplishment beyond the borders of Hall & Oates’ music. Shedding light on the genesis of the book, he says: “I always knew that at some point I wanted to write something beyond lyrics and music. I wanted to get into some prose. I didn’t know what that would be. I was doing a series of interviews with a guy named Chris Epting, who is a writer and actually writes a lot of history books. In the course of the interviews, we got into some pretty deep stuff, and at one point he said, ‘Man, you had such an amazing life and so many stories, you should write a book one day—and if you ever want to do it, I’d like to help you.’ I just had a gut feeling that he was the right person to collaborate with, and we began a series of interviews. I’ve been keeping a journal from the time I graduated college in June 1970—until the end of the decade. I have 15 volumes, and I told him that I had all this and he said, ‘That’s gold—you got to let me see some of this stuff.’ So I sent him copies of all the journals. He dug through them and began to help me pull it together. He functioned as an editor. He’s an amazing researcher. He did research on things that I never would have remembered, and brought up some moments that quite frankly would have been lost to me had I not dug back into it. I began to write. It took almost two years. It was really an interesting process for me to do this, since I had never written a book before. And I really enjoyed it. I put a lot of work into it. The biggest challenge for me to write this book was how do I tell my own personal story when my own personal story is so intrinsically connected to the Hall & Oates experience. So, that’s what I needed to balance—and I hope I found a good balance there.”

Humanitarian Efforts in the 21st Century and “Oates Song Fest 7908”
Along with his wife Aimee, John’s  humanitarian efforts continue into the 21st century, in the form of helping the organization Feeding America realize its vision to end hunger in America. “Oates Song Fest 7908” in 2021, a free streaming concert he and Aimee put together with Drive Entertainment Group and Nugs TV, featured an all-star lineup with names like Dave Grohl, Michael McDonald and Sammy Hagar. All donations and proceeds went to Contemplating the social issue of food insecurity and his efforts to address it, Oates points out, “During the COVID period, my wife and I were at home watching the news, as we all did, trying to process what was happening to the world, and we began to become very aware that there was food insecurity in America. I took it personally because I felt that in a country as blessed and wealthy as ours, there really shouldn’t be American families going without food. If I can walk into a local supermarket and see the shelves stocked with food, it just doesn’t seem right that there are families starving—that can’t feed their kids. That really upset me and my wife, and I talked about it and we said ‘let’s see if we can do something.’ We were doing a lot of Zoom interviews, and I was doing a lot of collaborations on Zoom, and we said ‘let’s see if we can put a streaming show together and ask our friends and people we respect musically if they would contribute. Everyone was amazing. They all sent these amazing videos and we were just humbled by how much they responded. We ended up providing 450,000 meals, which we were really proud that was something we just did, and worked really hard at it, and something we felt was important for us to try to contribute to.”

Guthrie Trapp & John Oates – Colonial Theatre, Phoenixville, PA – Photo credit Rodeo Marie Hanson

An Evening of Songs & Stories Tour With Guitarist Guthrie Trapp
An Evening of Songs & Stories Tour with guitarist Guthrie Trapp revealed another wedge of the John Oates collage to fans in 2022. It celebrates the American popular song and early artists like King of the Delta Blues Robert Johnson, Jimmie Rodgers, and Willie Dixon, who paved the way for rock ’n’ roll, and also provides Oates with an opportunity to tell his personal musical story, and how the kind of music that he was listening to informed who he is as a musician outside of Hall & Oates.

Oates’ working relationship with Guthrie Trapp began when the two met at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival about 17 years ago. Interestingly enough, even though Guthrie’s considerably younger, when they got together and began to know each other personally and musically, they realized they had a lot of the same influences. Guthrie Trapp also grew up in a musical family and a lot of the things he heard as a child were very similar to the things that Oates was doing when he was a kid back in the 50s and early 60s. So when they got together, they had a lot of commonalities in their roots and influences. The concept for the show is to bring the living room to the stage, which both he and Guthrie talked about while performing in a living room. Bringing the point home Oates adds, “You can’t make it seem like it’s a music lecture. What you have to do is you have to entertain. But in the course of the entertaining, you can impart a message—that’s the key. The key is to be able to impart a message that’s meaningful and perhaps enlightening, or opens the audience’s minds to something new. At the same time, you have to entertain them. That’s how I try to balance the show. I balance it with humor and information—exposing them to music and artists that they weren’t previously aware of. In that way, I guess I’ve been successful.” Commenting on Guthrie Trapp, Oates expands further, “He (Trapp) is just such an amazing musician. It’s always a pleasure to play with great musicians because they always elevate—they make me better. The total is greater than the sum of its parts. He’s an easy guy to hang around with—he’s fun and he’s got a great personality.”

John Oates is associated with the hits of Hall & Oates, so the show presents an interesting dichotomy for him. Oates offers a setlist of simmering Americana with Mississippi John Hurt’s “Stackolee” (aka Stack O’Lee, Stagolee, Stagger Lee) about the murder of Billy Lyons by “Stag” Lee Shelton in St. Louis, Missouri at Christmas 1895—first published in 1911, and first recorded in 1923, by Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians, a dance band founded at Penn State University by Fred Waring. Then he adds to the concoction “Think” written by Lowman Pauling, which Oates first heard as a James Brown cover, and Percy Mayfield’s “Send Me Someone to Love” from 1953.

The Evening of Songs & Stories concert at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA in 2022, was a kind of a homecoming for John Oates—who grew up about 15 minutes away from the venue. He thanks the audience for showing up, allowing him to indulge his musical musings, and supporting a night of folksy music. Acknowledging his mom and dad, he adds that he wouldn’t be here without his parents, and seizes the opportunity to introduce his father, who is in attendance this night, and stands up to applause. A symbolic circle is further completed when he recounts his connection to the great Don Gibson classic “Oh Lonesome Me.” It was the first song he played and was one he learned when he was eight years old in Lansdale, PA. Years later, at an airport in Nashville, Oates overheard a woman on her cell phone talking about going to see Oates perform—that woman was Gibson’s widow. Oates in turn introduced himself to her.

It’s only appropriate “What a Wonderful World” popularized by Louis Armstrong closes out the night’s performance. Oates comments that the song is a bright ray of sunshine in challenging times.

Photo credit Jeff Fasano –

Larger Arenas Versus Theatres
Contrasting the experience of playing larger arenas versus theatres, Oates remarks, “Yes, I actually do prefer the theatre style show. This show (Evening of Songs & Stories) is particularly designed to be performed in a listening, small environment—because it’s personal, it’s intimate and it requires that you can really connect with them. An arena show is really a broader stroke. You’ve got people way up in the balcony, way in the back, you can’t really see them, they’re just dots in the background and you need the big video screens in order to reach them. You need the big production to fill that vast space. With this show, the one I’m doing with Guthrie, it’s the exact opposite. I want to not fill the space; I want the space to come to us and that’s why we said we wanted to bring the living room to the stage—and that’s what we tried to achieve.”

Collaborators And The Nashville Experience
Adam Ezra, country hit maker Craig Wiseman and Joe Henry are some of the talents with whom John Oates has worked. He boils down the formula for choosing who his creative partners will be, “I just hope for the best. I keep my ear to the ground. I listen to music. I hear things and I go—who wrote that, that’s cool, and I reach out or we meet. One of the many good things about being in Nashville is that you run across these incredible musicians all the time, in all kinds of settings. You’ll hear a song and you’ll say, ‘Hey, who wrote that?’ and someone will say that’s so and so, I know him, he lives over here and here’s his phone number. I’ll text him and say, ‘Hey man, you want to write a song?’ It’s literally as simple as that. I just kind of work with people who can bring something to the table that perhaps I can’t or don’t, or help me articulate an idea I might have. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s it, pretty much.”

Oates says the Nashville experience has been wonderful for him, and transitions to his work with Craig Wiseman, who has more #1 country hits than anyone else. Oates went out drinking the night before getting together with Wiseman, and confesses to being a lightweight in the arena of alcohol. On the day the two met, Oates was in a fog and told Wiseman that he had nothing. Wiseman shared his own story of alcohol-fueled misadventures, and recounted the night he got so drunk that he couldn’t find his hotel room on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. “Lose It in Louisiana” came out of that session.

Joe Henry the lyricist, not the alt-country singer, has written for Frank Sinatra and John Denver. Henry and Oates worked on a song during COVID lockdown. The song “Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee” is about cooperation, and references the tale of American folk and blues duo Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. Terry and McGhee didn’t get along that well in real life. But as time went on, one went blind and the other couldn’t walk, and the need to rely on each other brought them closer together. It might be the most honest and revealing song about John Oates the person. He articulates, “If you listen to the lyrics closely, there’s a lot of insight in there into who I am as a person, and the type of things I care about. But there’s also a lot of insight into my relationship with Daryl Hall, and my relationship to the world in general. I want to promote positiveness and kindness. I want to promote the idea of helping and cooperation. To me, that’s the key to a civilized society.”

Photographer Jeff Fasano (who has a new book out, Americana Portrait Sessions) is another creative ally, and helped arrange this interview. Oates reflects on the relationship: “Jeff’s a Nashville guy. Jeff is just fantastic. We’ve shot many, many pictures over the years. He’s very in tune with the Americana community. I think he knows how to bring out the best. He’s taken some pictures that are kind of a glimpse into the soul of the musician—which is really what a great photographer would do.”

John Oates at the Folk Alliance – Photo credit Jeff Fasano

“Disconnected” COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdown Brings New Music
Philosophizing about the COVID pandemic, Oates states unflinchingly, “As bad as it was and as traumatic as it was for many people, from the medical point of view—for me, it was an opportunity to stay home for a whole year. Over a year without really having to travel—was the first time in my entire professional life that I had ever done that. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. I got a chance to really reflect on a lot of things. I got a chance to reevaluate a lot of things personally, professionally, business -wise. I made a lot of changes. It gave me the time to step out and take a look at what I was doing and how I was doing it, especially business-wise, and recalibrate and rearrange a lot of  important things that I had not dealt with—because I was always too busy to deal with it. I also really got real creative. I collaborated and wrote a bunch of songs, things that I just never would have the time to do.”

John Oates’ creativity during the pandemic emerged from the shadows of 2020’s lockdown—to be shared with the world on his official YouTube channel in 2023. He released singles and official music videos for new songs, which embody thematic elements of human struggle and racial equality—while proposing harmony in an era of political, social and economic discord.

“Pushin’ a Rock” encapsulates the eternal struggle of humanity against problems. The metaphor of a boulder to represent challenges is simplistic, but highly effective. A black and white video features a pensive Oates sauntering across an urban landscape carrying the weight, while actors use non-verbal expressive body language adding to the narrative. A disco ball and lights flood the end of the video, bathing Oates in optimism and color. This track channels Curtis Mayfield.

“Disconnected” is an introspective piece about a romance that is built on a house of cards, not solid ground. Oates portrays multiple roles simultaneously, including a filmmaker—as well as his own backup singers. This song could fit as a more brooding R&B companion piece to “She’s Gone.”

Guthrie Trapp, Sug Daniels, John Oates at Colonial Theatre – Photo Credit Rodeo Marie Hanson

“Why Can’t We Live Together” is a cover of the Timmy Thomas 1972 anti-war anthem. Snapshots and footage from protests of the war in Vietnam to Afghanistan accords the video a retro vibe with a socially current and relevant message.

“What a Wonderful World,” another cover, offers enthusiasm and elation for humanity.

“Maneater” has been stripped down to its original reggae version. Vintage clips of Oates as a stripling, soaking up the sun and surf of Jamaica—and enjoying the island’s lifestyle for the video—complements this song perfectly.

“Too Late to Break Your Fall” like all the other tracks highlights Oates’ vocal gymnastics. Crooning with cool confidence, Oates punctuates the playful lyrical content like the value of a rainbow’s gold. A big band swing sound and production adds a touch of class while the jazz-inspired guitar playing is redolent of Django Reinhardt. Fish swimming through a saxophone solo in the music video evokes MTV of the early 1980s.

Wisdom From 10 Number One Records And Over 20 Top 40 Hits
John Oates is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall Of Fame, recipient of BMI Icon Award, MTV Awards and multiple GRAMMY nominations.

The Songwriters Hall Of Fame without a doubt is the one award that the teenage John Oates would be most surprised to discover would be given to him as an adult. He explains, “Even though the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was great to be part of, without the songs we wrote, we would not be in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. So, I think it all starts there.”

Guthrie Trapp & John Oates at Colonial Theatre – Photo credit Rodeo Marie Hanson

10 number one records and over 20 top 40 hits are part of John Oates’ stellar resume.  He produces, collaborates, develops new artists and has contributed music to motion picture soundtracks. Howard Goldberg’s 1976 cult film Apple Pie features dance music by the Daryl Hall / John Oates Band. Oates also composed music for 2023’s Gringa  directed by E. J. Foerster and Marny Eng. With such a hectic schedule, he still manages to find time to perform live.

Hall & Oates have influenced other artists and pop culture, and are embedded in Philly’s DNA as much as soft pretzels or the Liberty Bell. In May of 2023, the Philadelphia Zoo held a contest to name sloth cubs and “Hall & Oates” was one of the two choices, and the following month saw the release of the Jennifer Lawrence romantic comedy No Hard Feelings which prominently placed “Maneater” in the film’s plot and soundtrack.

Lending his wisdom, Oates offers the following guidance to a young person who wants to pursue a career in the music industry, and shares his take on the value of music education in school: “Music education—I know that a lot of school districts are cutting back on the arts, which is a shame. I do know that the world has changed and the internet has provided a lot of opportunities for people to get information above and beyond the traditional academic model as it’s been for many years. I think musicians and artists can find their way now without necessarily having it in school but it should not be removed from school. Students not as fortunate should be able to access the arts. I think it’s very important.

I’d advise that you do the traditional thing that all musicians and creative people have done for centuries. You try to emulate the people that you respect and that move you, and that touch you. It doesn’t have to be music, it could be anything. You try to understand what it is that they do that touches you and reaches you, and then if you can emulate it or try to emulate it, it’s almost like unlocking a key to a certain type of knowledge and a certain type of artistic point of view. Then hopefully once you do that, you can really try to understand that, ‘Hey! I love whatever.’ I’ll just make an example with Joni Mitchell. I’m going to learn some Joni Mitchell songs. When you learn her songs, you get insight into her personality and into her technique. Then once you do that, if you’re creative, you can have that evolve into your own personal style and perhaps come up with something that is uniquely yours. But you really do need to walk before you can run.”

John Oates is currently on tour.

— by Rodeo Marie Hanson

Where can fans find out more?

John Oates at City Winery – Photo credit Jeff Fasano

comment closed

Copyright © 2023 M Music & Musicians Magazine ·