John Oates introduces his life this way in his autobiography, Change of Seasons:
“Thursday, April 7, 1948 – Al Jolson was voted most popular singer in America by Variety magazine and Columbia records introduced the new 33 1/3 long-playing record album. At 1 a.m. that morning, I was introduced to the world at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, starring as the first child born to Anna and Alfred Oates.”
It was an auspicious beginning to an auspicious career. John Oates went on to become half of the best-selling duo of all time, Hall & Oates, as well as a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1999, Oates went solo and has recorded six solo albums, the most recent Arkansas. He has teamed with a group of accomplished Americana musicians, known as The Good Road Band, to pay homage to the state’s beauty and underscore Oates’ interest in early American music.
John Oates met Daryl Hall at Temple University in Philadelphia. Both were devotees of earlier soul greats and they began performing together in the early 1970s. They went on to record 21 albums, selling more than 80 million units with hits like “Private Eyes,” “I Can’t Go for That,” and “She’s Gone.” They have scored 10 number one records, more than 20 Top 40 hits and were involved in the original “Live Aid” concert and the “We are the World” charity recording.
The album Arkansas was released in 2018 and was originally inspired by the music and legacy of the legendary Mississippi John Hurt, Oates’ musical idol. It expanded to encompass other artists and styles that represent the dawn of American popular music from the early 1920s and 1930s. Oates assembled a band of all-star Nashville musicians to shine a light on American music long before the birth of rock ‘n roll. There are new interpretations of the Emmett Miller classic “Anytime” from 1924, as well as the Jimmie Rodgers tune, “Miss the Mississippi and You” from 1932. The album reimagines traditional Delta, country blues and ragtime. Oates has contributed several tracks: the title song, “Arkansas,” and “Dig Back Deep.” They blend with the traditional roots material to make the recording a retrospective of American popular song in an earlier era. Asked to describe, the album, Oates said “It’s like Dixieland, dipped in bluegrass and salted with Delta blues.”
Others had praise for the work. No Depression: The Journal of Roots Music, said that “Arkansas may be Oates’ very best album, simply because the music is so much a part of him that he can deliver it with a simple intensity that evokes a range of feelings in the listeners.”
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