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Soul to Soul

Every year, I go to the BMI awards dinner. The music publishing company is one of two (along with ASCAP) that collects your royalties every time someone plays your song, so that if you are, for instance, Gary Wright, you can buy a house in Palos Verdes because 33 years ago you recorded “Dream Weaver.”

Every year, the guy from Lifehouse gets a bunch of awards for being a top getter of lovely royalty cash, and no, I don’t know why either, though Lifehouse’s debut eight years ago was an enjoyable little collection of soft rock and pop that wasn’t in the least offensive and was very catchy. Are they Jesusy? Is there some yooge base of loyal homeschooled kids that is buying every album? Do they love them as much as I loved Mr. Mister? Or more, considering I didn’t bother with Mr. Mister’s sophomore effort, even though I could have gotten it as one of my 12 tapes for a penny? I do not know, and I do not care to find out.

One year, Brian Wilson was being honored, but I hate the Beach Boys so I didn’t stay, and one year Ike Turner was there, and I broke my finger. That year, my tablemate was Michigan Congressman John Conyers, and I was so excited! Then I recounted the time after 9/11 that airport security made him strip down because of his pacemaker, and he said that wasn’t he but rather was John Dingell, and he didn’t talk to me anymore after that.

This year, the big winner with all the hits was Polow Da Don, and I never came within a hundred yards of him to ask him what the hell “my London, London Bridge wanna go down,” while a band called “Hinder” won Song of the Year for “Lips of an Angel,” which is just grody and wrong and sorta Deliverance – as were they; some among them even had perms – and it was fun fun fun till my daddy took my T-bird away.

But it is not a BMI awards dinner without a) an open bar; b) industry types who won’t schmooze you; and c) a guest of honor that makes the ladies scream. So after the filets and jumbo shrimp were et, lying in a sauce for which five sticks of butter had given their lives, it was time for Daryl Hall and John Oates to get their lifetime achievement awards. Eeeeeeeeeeeee!

I’m just kidding. I didn’t really care. Except for this: In the tribute to H/O beforehand, in addition to a multimedistravaganza of Hall’s leonine Nordicness and Oates’s jheri-curl mullet and Magnum mustache, the goodly folk at BMI interviewed some other goodly folk about H/O’s Meaning and Import to the World of Rock. Del Bryant, the warm and genial president of BMI proclaimed, “Hall and Oates are the most successful duo in the history of rock!” which made my head spin –
really? Maybe they’ve sold more records than Ike and Tina, but were they more successful than Simon & Garfunkel, say, or Captain and Tennille? (I couldn’t think of any other duos except the Thompson Twins, so,
really, maybe they were!)

The Wik tells me Simon & Garfunkel only had two No. 1 singles, while H/O had six, so by that metric, I mean, yeah, I guess, but the Wik has put me in a grand funk and I think it is time to change the subject. So I was already getting a small bit crotchety when one of the folk interviewed in the tribute vid elbowed his way into my reverie with, “John Hall has the greatest voice in the history of soul.”

I know!

That was when my head exploded all over the the guy sitting next to me. He deserved it, though, as he couldn’t be bothered to stop BlackBerrying even during an ovation for Al Gallico, who’d published “Stand by Your Man,” “The Most Beautiful Girl,” and “Time of the Season,” and who’d passed away May 15.

Also, I got some of my head on the centerpiece. It was very messy.

The Greatest Voice in the History of Soul.

Go ahead. Read it again.

The Greatest Voice in the History of Soul.

Let’s play a little game: I’ll name people with greater voices in soul history, and you nod in agreement.

Sam Cooke.

Marvin Gaye.

Otis Redding.


Lou Rawls.

Isaac Hayes.

Smokey Robinson.

Ray Charles.

Etta James.

Mahalia Jackson.

Stevie Wonder.

Curtis Mayfield.

A little someone I like to call “James Brown.”

And everyone else in soul history who wasn’t Daryl Hall.

Wasn’t that a good game? It was!

But then a funny thing happened. I was berating the entire world in my head for overselling, for inciting this awful angry backlash – in me, anyway – when clearly they should have just said, “Okay, all the women in your 30s and 40s, now it’s time to backward skate!” Why not just let us have our fun, goofy nostalgia? Why pretend Hall & Oates is anything more important than a good time? It’s like calling Bret Michaels the greatest poet of his generation.

Touch my back stage pass / ride my lim-o-zine!

Soon, Babyface was onstage at the Beverly Wilshire singing “Sara Smile.” (The guy from Lifehouse had sung “Every Time You Go Away,” and some dude from Fall Out Boy who wasn’t the one who married the Simpson girl sang “Rich Girl.”) And as “Sara Smile” floated out above the audience, I walked to the back and shook my hips, just a little, in sort of a retarded-white-girl-sobering-up kind of way. Why, it wasn’t a bad song at all! In fact, it was sort of … gorgeous!

I suspect it might have been because Babyface has a greater voice in the history of soul than Daryl Hall does, too. Also, Babyface wasn’t on the Flashdance soundtrack – which it’s possible I own on cassette, I’m just saying it is physically impossible to be the owner of the greatest voice in the history of soul if you sang “Maneater.” I think Irene Cara would agree.
Hall and Oates themselves came out for a quick set that left everyone wanting more – “Maneater,” “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” and “She’s Gone,” and I stopped being angry and let the love wash me clean. It was time for a backwards skate.


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