Hall and Oates are bringing the “whole enchilada” to Chattanooga on Dec. 10. That’s how John Oates excitedly described the upcoming concert during a recent interview with The Pulse. “The show is big, loud and powerful,” he said. “We’ve got a great band, with fantastic musicians and singers. It comes on strong and never lets up.”
Chattanoogans have been privy to concerts by the pop superstars during almost every stage of the duo’s career. When they return to the Memorial Auditorium it will bring the artists full circle, to the venue they played almost four decades ago on April 21, 1973, as a rising act. As their success skyrocketed, Hall and Oates returned to the venue on June 28, 1977, and then at the UTC Arena as they rode out the height of their fame on May 4, 1985. Today, as well-established artists, they celebrate a decade of hits onstage together while maintaining separate solo careers.
In the years between that first and last visit to Chattanooga, Hall and Oates’ seemingly endless list of chart-toppers grew to include “Rich Girl,” “Kiss on My List,” “Private Eyes,” “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” “Maneater” and “Out of Touch.” In 1987 they were named the top-selling duo in music history, a record they still hold today.
“We have so many hits, and when we perform people expect to hear those hits, and rightly so,” Oates said during a phone interview from his part-time home in Nashville. “But we also try to throw in unique and different album cuts, stuff that gives a better perspective of our musical careers as a whole.”
The title of their tour (and a career retrospective box set)—Do What You Want, Be What You Are: The Music of Daryl Hall & John Oates—embraces their separate musical identities yet mutual respect for their past together. Accordingly, the Hall and Oates moniker has been replaced by their full names.
“We haven’t written [new music together] in years,” Oates said. “Our relationship is past that now, personally and musically. I believe that what Daryl and I do together is based on our past, and I don’t mean that in a nostalgic way. What I mean is, we have so much great music that we created together that we don’t even have enough time to play that in concert, much less play something new.”
“You Make My Dreams”
Hall and Oates first met in the late 1960s and bonded over a shared love of rhythm and blues, as well as traditional-leaning roots oriented music. They teamed as songwriters at Cameo-Parkway Records, a Philadelphia label that was similar to New York City’s famed songwriter headquarters, The Brill Building.
They released their first album in 1972 and a string of smash hits followed from the mid-’70s to the mid-’80s, propelling the duo to international stardom. Among their 20-plus Top 40 hits are “Sara Smile,” “One on One,” “You Make My Dreams,” “Say It Isn’t So” and “Method of Modern Love.” Today Hall and Oates have album sales totaling over 80 million units.
Though their radio success eventually subsided, acclaim from musical peers has steadily continued. In 2005 they were inducted into the revered Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York City, and in 2008 they were saluted with the BMI Icon Award, a prestigious songwriting honor that celebrates a “unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers.”
Over the years, Hall and Oates’ work as a duo has had its peaks and valleys. In 2011 Hall clarified their relationship as “separate, but equal” during an interview with the Los Angeles music magazine, LA Record. “We never had any split,” Hall said. “Again, it was some kind of perception that you can’t be two things.”
This year marks the 40th anniversary of their debut album, Whole Oats, and their music continues to inspire younger generations. Among the numerous bands who cite Hall and Oates as an influence are Gym Class Heroes, the Killers and Hot Chelle Rae.
“One on One”
In recent years, Hall’s and Oates’ solo work has honed in on what brought them together in the first place—songwriting. Other artists have scored with songs written by them, including Hall’s “Everytime You Go Away,” which they first recorded as a duo, but was made famous by Paul Young in 1985.
Hall released a solo album in 2011, Laughing Down Crying. His current projects include a monthly web series and nationally syndicated TV show, “Live from Daryl’s House.” On the show he performs with a mix of guest artists ranging from musical heavyweights to new faces. Among those who have joined him are Booker T and the MGs, Blind Boys of Alabama, Rob Thomas, Train, Cee Lo Green, Smokey Robinson, Jason Mraz, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals and Neon Trees.
Since 1999, Oates has recorded four solo albums: Phunk Shui, 100 Miles of Life, Mississippi Mile and the live album, The Bluesville Sessions.
Oates and his wife split time between homes in Aspen and Nashville, where he’s busy working on his next solo project. He’s been collaborating with some of Music City’s most celebrated tunesmiths such as Craig Wiseman, Pat Alger and Nathan Chapman (best known for manning the boards for Taylor Swift). Oates has also been writing with revered artists including Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Vince Gill.
“Everybody I’ve written with is my favorite collaborator,” Oates said, “because everybody brings something different to the session, and the bar is set consistently high—everyone here is good. It’s really exciting.”
When he’s not teaming with veteran hitmakers, Oates enjoys nurturing younger artists who might one day take their place. He is co-producing and writing with Daphne Willis, and has collaborated with Chattanooga-area native Angel Snow, including inviting her to play at one of his favorite initiatives, the 7908 Aspen Songwriters Festival. Oates founded the event, which celebrates the craft by pairing established tunesmiths with up-and-coming songwriters for unique performances. Since it’s inception he has recruited performers Keb Mo, Shawn Colvin, Allen Toussaint, Matt Nathanson, Jim Lauderdale, Kenny Loggins and many more.
After 20 years in Colorado, Oates said he loves Tennessee life. “I love that it is so centrally located for touring,” he said. “It’s so easy for me to travel, especially to the east and Midwest, compared to Colorado. We’re spending a lot more time here. It’s such a great place to be for music. Nashville is on the upswing, it’s got a buzz. And Tennessee is a beautiful state.”
Hall and Oates play Memorial Auditorium on Monday, Dec. 10.