In the introduction to his forthcoming memoir “Change of Seasons,” pop-soul celebrity John Oates states his mission succinctly: to tell both his personal story as well as that of his remarkable 45-year friendship and artistic alliance with Daryl Hall.
“Daryl has his own unique and powerful story,” Oates writes. “One day, he may choose to share it … or maybe not. But until then, I can only offer my own story.”
That is exactly what Oates does over the course of 400 pages in an immensely readable chronicle. It traces not only a storied pop career but also an absorbing personal saga that runs from a childhood spent outside of Philadelphia to recent time in Nashville with renewed emphasis on a solo career. There are personal lows (divorce, financial devastation) and highs (the birth of his son) and an unexpectedly moving chapter devoted to his dog. It is the story of an especially full and prolific life, one Oates is eager to share. He will do so, ahead of a spring book tour, with a performance and reading for the “WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour” on Monday at the Lyric Theatre.
... It was a chance for me to tell my story. One of the biggest challenges was, ‘How do I tell my personal story without it being the Hall and Oates Story ...
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“You know, I’ve kind of had an interesting life,” Oates said. “Obviously, people know me for the pop success I’ve had with Daryl. I understand that, but at the same time I’ve done a lot of other things people aren’t so familiar with. So it was a chance for me to tell my story. One of the biggest challenges was, ‘How do I tell my personal story without it being the Hall and Oates Story, which has been so much a part of my outer life. So it really was an interesting challenge to weave my own personal story and at the same time not ignore the fact that I spent my whole adult life in this incredible musical partnership.”
The idea for “Change of Seasons” began through a series of interviews conducted with author and journalist Chris Epting, even though Oates’ own passion for writing has never been limited to music.
“I’ve always looked at myself as a writer,” he said. “I was a journalism graduate from Temple University and I’ve always known I would write a book. I just didn’t know it was going to be a memoir. But I’ve always written prose alongside the music I’ve made.”
Every decision we ever made was based on what would allow us to keep making music for the rest of our lives, whether it was successful on a grand scale or a small scale.
Still, there is little denying the enormous level of stardom Oates achieved with Hall. In one of the most engaging chapters of “Change of Seasons,” Oates outlines the many artistic riches that came the duo’s way in 1985 — specifically, a mammoth tour supporting its “Big Bam Boom” album, an acclaimed performance at the Apollo Theatre with Motown legends David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks (chronicled on a subsequent live recording) and participation in the iconic Live Aid benefit and charity single “We Are the World.” In the aftermath, citing “there was no place to go but down at that point,” Hall and Oates turned the hit machine off and went on hiatus.
“If you really want to isolate that episode, it becomes really symbolic of who I am as a person and who Daryl is,” Oates said. “I don’t think people ever really knew we were very private people even though we were so commercially successful. We’re people who really care about our own personal integrity. Even though the pop songs and the stupid MTV videos — well, the silly MTV videos — kind of gave it this lighter-than-air quality, the reality was we were very committed and very dedicated to what we were doing. Every decision we ever made was based on what would allow us to keep making music for the rest of our lives, whether it was successful on a grand scale or a small scale. It didn’t matter to us.
“That scene, where we stepped back from this immense commercial success in 1985, was not the smartest thing to do from a commercial point of view, a business point of view or a monetary point of view. But it didn’t matter, because we made a conscious decision to make sure we could somehow sustain this on one level or another. And that’s what we’ve done.”