Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Interview: William Hart of The Delfonics

Max Cherry: "It's pretty. Who is it?"

Jackie Brown: "The Delfonics."

Max Cherry: "It's nice."

TRENTON -- Nice (and clean) is what William Hart strove for as a music maker when he wrote "Didn't I Blow Your Mind" and 17 other million-sellers for The Delfonics. But that was before the rap explosion shoved R&B'ers like them out of the way in the late '70s.

It took a quirky white kid from L.A. -- budding moviemaker Quentin Tarantino -- to bring The Delfonics back to life two decades later in the great movie "Jackie Brown."

"Quentin Tarantino is an avid Delfonics fan. I got an e-mail from him when they did the music, and I thanked them a thousand times," Hart said Friday at Sound of Trenton. "It kind of brought The Delfonics back to life. 'Cause the world needs new and clean music again."

Hart was the only Delfonic to show up for Friday's autograph and schmooze session inside Sound of Trenton, the little gem of a record store near the corner of East State and North Broad. It didn't matter that Hart showed up alone because people were loving the 67-year-old mustachioed man responsible for some of the most sugary love songs of his generation and beyond. The other Delfonics song in "Jackie Brown" is probably their most famous croon: "La-La (Means I Love You)" from 1967. It rose to No. 2 on the R&B charts.

Between signing his new (The Heart of The Delfonics) and best-of (The Delfonics All-Platinum) CDs with a red Sharpie and taking pictures and shaking hands with folks who procreated to his music, Hart talked about the business then and now. Artists he loves today are Mariah Carey, Jeremy Jackson and Whitney Houston. Whitney died Feb. 11 after being a non-entity for 20 years. Her songs were as big as anything at the time, and she had all the money in the world. And then her world went in the crapper.

"The money doesn't matter," Hart said. "The music business turns you into a whole other person. You have to accommodate everyone when your life is on display, and sometimes you get caught up in the wrong situation and you don't know how to get out of it. You take one drink, then you go further and further and further."

Drugs are that "further and further and further."

Hart, who created the band's name, said "I had promoters come and pour buckets of cocaine on the table and bring pounds of weed. They bring that stuff to the artists because they think that's what we want -- but that's not what we want. I was always able to keep myself away from the madness because I saw what it did to other people."

His favorites from yesterday's yesterday are James Brown, Joe Tex, Wilson Pickett, Dion Warwick, Barbra Streisand, Len Barry, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles ... "and I've worked with them all."

Hart isn't a big fan of today's music, a majority of it, anyway, "because the stories the writers put together are not wholesome. They're not stories that make people better -- they seem to make them worse." Lyrics, he said, that bother him frequently include "killing and murdering and bitches and ho's. They're ruining the legacy of what music is supposed to be. Music is supposed to be beautiful."

"La-La" has played on the radio more than 2 million times, and "Didn't I Blow Your Mind" not only won a Grammy in 1971 (the year I was born) for Best R&B Performance of '70, but New Kids on the Block did a remake of the song -- and it soared to No. 8 on the charts in 1986. As Hart talked about the success of that song 16 years apart, a Trentonian by the name of Barry Kirby gave the line of the day:

"There are 2 or 3 motherfuckers walking around looking like me based on your records," he said. And though it's not exactly a wholesome sentiment, it's the kind of line that blows your mind because it's funny.

Here are some stills of William Hart of The Delfonics:

Here is an interview with Hart:

And here is a final ode to Tarantino, "Jackie Brown" and The Delfonics: