‘We were one of the first’: Crossover success helped propel Hall and Oates to pop stardom

Hall and Oates are rightly praised for their six career charttopping pop hits, an accomplishment that no doubt helped bolster their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame credentials. Less discussed is how they reached that pinnacle — by way of earlier successes on the R&B charts.

Hall and Oates, in fact, had already notched two Top 30 R&B singles (“Sara Smile” and “Do What You Want, Be What You Are”) before they ever hit with the 1977 No. 1 song “Rich Girl.” In 1981, “I Can’t Go For That” went to No. 1 on both the pop and R&B charts — prompting a memorable appearance on “Soul Train.” “One on One” was Top 10 on both lists in 1983.

“We were one of the first groups to cross over between mainstream Top 40 radio and urban R&B radio,” John Oates tells New York Minute magazine. “We crossed over backwards, sort of racially and sonically upside down. Our first success was on urban R&B radio, and we crossed over to Top 40 radio later. Once we had done that, we still maintained our base in R&B radio.”

They made a memorable stop at the Apollo Theater and, as late as 1988, Hall and Oates was still notching R&B smashes with the likes of “Everything Your Heart Desires,” which went to No. 13. In all, they had nearly 20 charting songs on the R&B lists — something virtually unheard of in today’s world of strict radio formatting.

“I think that was unique at the time, and opened the door for a lot of other artists,” Oates adds. “I don’t think it would be accurate to say we were solely responsible, but in a lot of ways, with Michael Jackson and Prince appearing on Top 40 radio, things were opening up in a broader way to all sorts of music, and I think we were part of that.”

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