Wednesday, March 27, 2013

 

Whatever Happened to Dan Hartman?

Dan Hartman wrote "Free Ride," which became a Billboard Hot 100 top 20 hit for the Edgar Winter Group in 1972, but his first hit single as a solo performer was "Instant Replay," which reached the top spot on the U.S. Dance chart in 1978 and peaked at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100. It is impossible to listen to this song without dancing or at least tapping your feet:


It is fashionable to make fun of disco music and the disco era but what is wrong with music that is upbeat--literally and figuratively--and full of joy? I loved listening to disco music when I was a little kid in the 1970s and I still love listening to it today.

Hartman again topped the U.S. Dance chart in 1980 with "Relight my Fire"; the extended version of the song includes the four minute intro titled "Vertigo":


Unrequited love is a recurring theme in Hartman's music; "It Hurts to Be in Love" reached number 48 on the U.S. Dance chart in 1982:




"It Hurts to Be in Love" was the title track of an album that had particular meaning to Hartman: "This music is closer to me because it has more romantic sensitivity than I've allowed myself to show in past productions. I'm really pouring it all out. I guess you could say there's more Dan Hartman in there than any other record I've done." Hartman wrote, produced, played and recorded the album in his home studio in Connecticut. Hartman felt that this working arrangement brought out his best: "My music is spontaneous and provides an outlet for emotional release and expression, while my studio allows me to write, arrange and record my own songs within that same space. The result is music that comes straight from my heart--I can capture more feeling that way."

Hartman added, "I'm absorbed by the elements of 1980's pop music. The new album shows how aware I've become, and how I think others have become as well, with the personal needs for love. People are happy in love, and people are hurt by love, and in that way it does talk about my personal life and feelings too."

Hartman wrote "I Can Dream About You" for the movie "Streets of Fire"; he did not perform the song in the movie but Hartman's version peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984, thus becoming Hartman's only top 10 pop hit:



"We Are the Young," another single from the "I Can Dream About You" album, reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984 and also became Hartman's third and final number one dance hit:



Although Hartman did not have any more hit singles as a performer, he had a very successful run in the 1980s and early 1990s as a songwriter/producer. He co-wrote "Living in America" with Charlie Midnight; James Brown won the 1987 Grammy Award for best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "Living in America," one of the the biggest U.S. pop hits of his career and his last top 40 song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (it peaked at number four).

Hartman died of a brain tumor in 1994. He was just 43 years old.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

 

Whatever Happened to Terence Trent D'Arby?

Terence Trent D'Arby was a rising star in the late 1980s but even at the height of his commercial success he refused to conform to expectations and he did not curry favor with critics, fans or anyone else. In his Rolling Stone interview (published in the June 16, 1988 issue), D'Arby bristled at the idea of doing a conventional, bland question and answer session:

"We don't want to talk about sex, do we? Or about drugs or politics, right? We will talk about our record company, will we? In other words, we won't talk about anything that might possibly offend one person who won't go into the next Sam Goody's, or whatever store, and buy our record. So we wind up saying nothing.

I know there will be people who say 'How dare he say this,' who will want to slap me down, as if I don't have a right to speak my mind because I make records. For too long we've been fed the illusion of the rock artist as someone who only makes records--as someone who is merely an entertainer."

Abruptly a sad but obstinate look crosses D'Arby's face. "There are people who make me feel like I'm the most arrogant person to ever walk the face of the planet earth because I'm passionate. When I feel things, I feel them passionately. And, for better or worse, what makes me the artist that I am--and the artist that I want to be--is that passion.

If I let people take that way from me, I'm afraid that is going to be the mechanization of Terence Trent D'Arby. And I don't want that. I intend to resist that with everything I have."

Later in that interview, D'Arby declared, "People try to criticize artists for having an ego and arrogance. But if you want to get to the place where I want to get to, you better have some ego, mate, or you'll be crushed like a grapefruit seed. There's no way in the world you're going to be a Bob Dylan without having that insurmountable ego that tells you that you deserve to be there. There must be that insurmountable belief inside you that you deserve this attention. To be able to walk onstage in front of thousands of people, you better have an ego. Either that or you better run and hide right now." As Prince sang, "What makes a man wanna rule the world? (A double a double arrogance)."

D'Arby's debut album "Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D'Arby" sold several million copies, peaked at number four on the U.S. Billboard album chart and won a Grammy in 1988 for best male R&B vocal performance. The album's first single "If You Let Me Stay" reached 17th on the R&B chart and 68th on the Billboard Hot 100 and then the second single "Wishing Well" topped both charts:


Terence Trent D'arby - Wishing Well by trashfan

"Dance Little Sister" made it to ninth on the R&B chart and 30th on the Hot 100, followed by "Sign Your Name," which peaked at second on the R&B chart and fourth on the Hot 100:



For the final track on the album, D'Arby covered the Motown classic "Who's Loving You":



With his catchy lyrics and raspy, soulful singing style, D'Arby seemed to be headed for stardom but instead his life took a different path. His 1989 follow-up album "Neither Fish Nor Flesh" was not a commercial success (it peaked at number 61 on the U.S. Billboard chart) and he did not release another album until 1993 ("Symphony or Damn"). He feuded with his label, Columbia Records, before eventually going to Java Records, for whom he completed one unreleased album. After INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence died, D'Arby replaced him during INXS' performance at the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

D'Arby changed his name to Sananda Francesco Maitreya in 1995, though that did not officially become his legal name until 2001; here is an excerpt of his in depth explanation of the meaning of his new name (the spelling and punctuation are unchanged from the original text, except for the use of ellipses in place of portions of the explanation that are not quoted here):

Sananda Francesco Maitreya was born from the smouldering ashes of a former artists heart who had undergone severe trauma, lost his will and prayed devotedly to his creator to restore him to a new life. After much meditation, in 1995, at the age of 33, earth years, his prayers were answered and he was given a new consciousness. The name given to this consciousness was Sananda which means 'one who walks with light', Maitreya which means 'among the sons of God'. He presents his music as POST MILLENNIUM ROCK because he feels that it is more inclusive and representative of the vision his spirit inspires him to share...In describing his music he quotes from one of his idols, the great American Prophet and Poet Walt Whitman "Listen, I will be honest with you. I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes." His hobbies include whatever explains beauty and allows him to put more of it back into the world of wonders. 

Once upon a time, an artist, a fish, woke up to find himself in an era swimming in various kinds of music, the best of which touched him as a fish swimming in water feels everything that the water contains. He decided to take elements of all that moved him, wrap it around his vision and call it: 'POST MILLENNIUM ROCK' (PMR!)...Its purpose is to lead the listener back to the garden in their heart, to provoke the mind into seeing fresh new shapes in order to encourage fresh new visions and PMR has a preference (though no rules) for natural instrumentation played by living beings praising spirit and humanity through their chosen intruments. This particular fish heard the call of Sananda in 1995, at the age of 33. And he has been one of his voices since. He was also instructed to use the new music he would be given by Sananda not as a further barrier of separation, but as a call to community and shared values, because we are all one! 

Sananda

ps: 'throwing different shapes at your mind since time'

I like Sananda Maitreya's idea of "throwing different shapes at your mind." That describes who I try to be and what I strive to accomplish as a writer, as a chess teacher and just in general. Marvin Gaye said, "An artist, if he is truly an artist, is only interested in one thing and that is to wake up the minds of men, to have mankind and womankind realize that there is something greater than what we see on the surface."

Sananda Maitreya has committed himself to that kind of awakening, so even though he is not as commercially successful now as he was when he was known as Terence Trent D'Arby, if he has found peace and contentment then no one has the right to question the path that he has chosen; he is still expressing himself creatively through his music and that is much more important than seeking validation by appeasing fickle critics or by stacking up piles of cash.

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