Delfonics lead singer William Hart is a bit peeved.
Hart, who will be performing with the Delfonics Friday in Durham, is upset at people who say the latest Delfonics album, last year’s “Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics,” sounds more like an Adrian Younge album than a Delfonics album. “It’s an awful misprint there,” says Hart, on the phone from Philadelphia, referring to the album’s somewhat misleading title. “I’m the artist – he’s not the artist. I’m the one that’s singing. So, it’s just impossible for it to be an Adrian Younge album. It’s a William Hart of the Delfonics album.”
When Younge came to the Triangle earlier this month (he performed along with Ghostface Killah, whose new album “Twelve Reasons to Die” was also produced by Younge), the rising producer/musician spoke with The News & Observer about how he and the veteran soul singer, now 68, got to know each other on Twitter.
Eventually, Hart hopped on a plane and flew to Los Angeles to record some tracks with the young Younge, who had a stylishly distinctive, throwback sound – which he’s exhibited in albums he’s produced for himself (he makes psychedelic-soul music under the name Venice Dawn) and others – all ready for him.
“It was a very extremely beautiful experience,” says Hart, who claims they cut 14 songs in two weeks. “Most of the tracks he had already done. I came down and I lined melodies and lyrics up with them to make songs out of them. So, that’s what I do. I specialize in lyrics and poems and things like that. And it doesn’t matter what kind of music it is, I can write a song to it.”
When it comes to who is the heart and soul of the Delfonics, a group that dropped such Thom Bell-produced R&B classics as “La-La (Means I Love You)” and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time),” and included such late members as Major Harris and Randy Cain (who would later set up the group Blue Magic, which is performing with the Delfonics), Hart is happy to tell you that all comes from him.
Not only is Hart the frontman and co-founder of the Philly-born, soul-singing group, he also owns the Delfonics name and, as evidenced by this new album, records all the vocals. William Hart is the Delfonics, something he’s happy to let people know. “It can deceive the public thinking this guy, Adrian Younge, is the Delfonics,” he says, once again hung up on the title. “No, William Hart is the Delfonics, and that’s the reality. A Smokey Robinson album is a Smokey Robinson album regardless of who produced it.”
O.G. of young-school
While Hart admits that Younge laid down the musical foundation before he showed up, Hart believes the songs didn’t come alive until he added the words and his trademark, high-pitched vocals. “There were no lyrics or no melodies to any of that music until I came on the scene,” he says. “So, I don’t get the concept of how anyone can conceive the fact that it could be an Adrian Younge album when it’s featuring William Hart.”
Considering that he started back when most black vocalists often didn’t get credit for originally recording songs that would become pop classics, it is understandable why Hart would be worried.
“That’s what most artists in my era are afraid of, you know what I mean,” he says. “People are piggybacking off of a longlife legacy and turning around and trying to give it to somebody that’s been around for 15 minutes.”
Nevertheless, Hart says his backup band, along with the other two singers he shares the stage with as the Delfonics (when asked who the other singers were, Hart says, “Oh, you wouldn’t know them”), is learning the new songs to perform along with the old ones at live shows. He does say he finds it unbelievable that, even though he’s been a Delfonic for nearly five decades, new kids like Younge still want to record with him.
“It’s a new experience for me, I guess you could imagine,” he says. “They come from another era, but they happen to be lucky in picking me to be that guy – as they call it, the O.G. of the young-school music.”