Dan Hartman

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Musician Dan Hartman with the Edgar Winter Group in 1975 (third from left)

Daniel Earl Hartman (December 8, 1950-March 22, 1994) was an American musician, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer.


  • As an artist, I don’t like being able to be seen…If you’re having difficulty getting a part, it adds to the tension when the assistant engineer, engineer, producer and producer’s wife are hanging out. With the School-house, my engineer’s in the control room, and I could be doing vocals while stretching my T-shirt over my head and it wouldn’t matter. Everyone who’s worked here has gotten used to this nonvisual communication and actually found it to be advantageous. That’s what home studios are about — that funky thing.
  • Creativity is an interesting thing…You can sit back, have a glass of wine, watch some television…and get a terrific idea of what you want to do…The great thing about being at home is that as soon as you get an idea you can put a mike at the piano and record it. That way you don’t lose the vibes, and you don’t have to worry about finishing before the studio’s next booking arrives…”
  • I'm the least technical person I've ever met...I hate anything with digital numbers on it. I just go by instinct. It's the same with a new AMS as it is with a synthesizer for me. I never read manuals. I just sit down with the thing for a couple of days and fiddle with the knobs until I figure out what it can do. And get what I like out of it. When it comes to producing too I just go for something that will jump off the record and into people's heads. Again, it's a question of what feels right. I try to make records which have a point of view to express and so you always have to concentrate upon the voice. When we did my album we tried very hard to keep the sort of R'n'B danceability in the vocals you'd expect from a D Train or Gloria Gaynor, but still keeping that Rock conviction you get from Foreigner.
  • The bass suit was actually one of the first cordless guitars in existence, and I invented it. It was built right into this silver bodysuit so it looked as though the bass was coming out of my body, and the volume and tone knobs were on the sleeve...When it worked it was great, but the tunings were a little strange, plus I can’t tell you how many times I got shocked. It wound up being just one more thing that we had to worry about on tour: ‘Well, I wonder if this will work tonight.’ After a while I couldn’t stand wearing it anymore so I gave it up.
  • In my mind, recognition has never been something to be obtained…I’m happy that more people appreciate what I’m doing, and are hearing my music. When I write, I communicate my own message, my own feelings and passion. I’m glad that they are being accepted.
    • On becoming recognized after having been involved over a decade in the music business in Fletch to the Beat” in Orange Coast Magazine (Aug 1985)
  • Sure. It does lean more towards the industry standard rather than towards my roots. But I meant it to be that way for a reason. To begin with this is my first album in about three years and my first for a new label. So I wanted the album to have the same basic listenability throughout and I wanted the record company to feel that they could hear four or five potential singles on it. Tracks that would work on the radio. Because that was what I was aiming for, I had to make sure that each song would capture an exact feeling which would get across to the most number of people. I always like to make records like that. I hate records where all the musicians or the artiste are really saying is 'Dig Me!' You can lose a lot of your potential audience by making self-indulgent statements. Unless, of course, you're so neat and groovy that people say 'Wow Man! Come All Over Me!'. Now I think I am pretty neat and groovy, but I prefer to make the sort of records which will make people think about themselves, not about me. Pop music shouldn't really express the innermost thoughts of the artiste as much as giving the listeners a feeling of exuberance or pain or power or whatever. To give them a sense of their own selves. Once you start making music with that sort of end in mind, you realise that you have to make it less jagged and more compartmentalised. And so the reason I Can Dream About You sounds maybe as Industry Standard as it does is because it was designed to get through to as many different sorts of people as possible. And that isn't necessarily a negative factor.
  • ...People get confused because they want the boxes your talent comes in to be always the same shape and the same colour. If you don't do that then people lose track of who you are. They say 'Oh, he doesn't know himself'. But I know who I am. The energy is the same, the expression is the same and the work diligence is the same. Always. It's just that sometimes it all comes in different boxes and different colours. It may be weird to some people but it surely doesn't bother me.
  • It seemed to be a natural period when I wanted to stop doing pop records; it came with a falling-out between my record company and me...There was a hole in my career. Instead of a valley, it became a peak to me. I decided I was going to do something that I hadn’t really had time to do.
  • I started reading books about the subconscious mind and intuitiveness, and what makes people tick when they hear songs that excite them, make them feel romantic or melancholy. I was in and out of bookstores and libraries. I read a lot of texts, including on primitive man and the workings of the way we emotionally react to things. It wasn’t scholarly or scientific. I read and skimmed and when I thought something was nonsense, I just moved on…
  • In a lot of ways this music is soothing. I think there’s a place for music that is peaceful and soulful unto the spirit. After plane bombings, AIDS and everything that has come upon us in this decade, I think we can use a little solace and reflection.
  • I don’t necessarily do music for the pure art sake of my own self-expression, which is why a lot of people make music—to express themselves. I really feel that the work I do, be it writing, singing or producing, I do in order to help communicate feelings to other people, hoping they might feel the same things, that they somehow relate to it or get an experience from it that they can share with themselves.
  • The reality of Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes is here, only if he were around now, he’d say “Now it’s five.” We’re going so fast, we don’t know what’s going on inside anymore. We’re becoming external, not feeling anything.
  • I have a bit of anger about some things going on in the world that I know I want to sing about. I’ve never done that on a solo album before; they’ve been mostly about romance and relationships…The concept is Dan Hartman, so whatever’s happening to me when I begin to put out the feelings will be what the album is about. Whether I’m in love, out of love, or the next plane blows up…whatever, I just want to stay creative and hopefully keep people thinking and feeling…At least feel something.
    • On the solo album that he was working on at the time of the interview in “License to Chill” in SPIN Magazine (Nov 1989)
  • I think James Brown has made a lot of good records (in recent years)…But it was that purist James Brown thing that he was doing in the beginning and people won’t let him do that anymore because time marches on…That stuff is classic to me, but other people get bored with it. The challenge is to present something that is him, yet sounds fresh to listeners. That’s usually hard for (a veteran artist) to do. It helps to have someone step in from outside…I am proud of what we did on the album. I think it does present a contemporary James Brown. It’s not candy-coated. It has a lot of statement and a lot of heart.
  • When you get into the areas of eroticism, politics, and belligerency, you have to be careful. Some of it will get out. Both Charlie and I have slanted minds. If “Relax” or “Sugar Walls" can be hits, there is a place for that kind of stuff, too. It's fun and interesting to write about that. Or with politics: Third World people own the bomb. That's probably where the nuclear war will start. They have nothing to lose. You can write about that. It'll be just another record from a romantic cynic.
  • They said the scene was going to be patriotic, with the flag and Apollo fighting the Russian, and it had to be pro-American. We said we didn’t really want to go flag waving. We just wanted to have a good time, write a funky number and sing about America.
  • I realize all you need to do is do it. I think we all restrict ourselves in our lives from doing things. We have choices and alternatives.
  • I started producing before I even joined the Legends—around 1962... I produced some local R&B, rock and gospel acts at Baldwin Sound in Mechanicsburg [Pennsylvania]. People would hear what I'd done on someone else's record and call me up and ask if I'd produce them, too. I even wrote and recorded an advertising jingle for Sutliff Chevrolet out on Paxton Street when I was 16. So it's always been something that I could fall back on throughout my career--to keep my mind going, to keep me musically inspired, and to keep me moving without having to make statements of my own…

Quotes about Dan Hartman[edit]

  • Dan was the first person I enlisted for The Edgar Winter Group. It was a huge talent search; I listened to hundreds of demo tapes to choose talented people for what I wanted to be the quintessential American rock band...The thing that I loved about Dan was that he had a youthful innocence and enthusiasm. He loved commercial music, and he didn’t have to try to be commercial. He had a natural ability to come up with simple ideas that were never overdone...he was originally a guitarist...I had to talk him into playing bass. He was a multi-instrumentalist like myself, but he was not a virtuoso player. Yet he would always find the right part to complement the song. Rock solid, and with the right groove. As well as being a great songwriter, he knew what to play and when to play it.
  • Dan always liked to have a lyric before he wrote a melody and created a track. He reasoned that he needed to know the essence of the song in order to inspire his creative process. As a result, we would discuss an idea and I would then write lyrics. Often, I would throw out some lines or titles before proceeding to ensure that Dan agreed on the direction. If he concurred then I would go on to complete a lyric. Dan was very tough and uncensored in his assessments but our dynamics allowed for this. Being satisfied with the final work was all that mattered. However, because of his unvarnished critiques, I developed a system wherein I would write many alternative lyrics so that Dan could have choices.
  • ...This guy was so multi-talented. We would wake up and come down to the den and hear somebody playing like Hendrix, with the amp low-tuned. He could play like Hendrix. And then he’d sit down at the piano and play all these Elton John songs. He loved the Philadelphia Soul — that’s why you can hear it in “I Can Dream About You.” He loved The Spinners, and all those guys. He was like a sponge; he soaked up all those influences. And it was amazing to see the guy be such a virtuoso at every instrument — singing, playing, producing, piano, guitar...
  • Working with Dan was like going to an institute of higher learning in pursuit of a PhD in the art of collaboration. Before this, I had been the lead singer in bands and expected to write the lyrics, and it had been expected for those lyrics to express my experience and worldview. That had been my job, and, for the most part, no collaboration had been necessary...which opinion was better or worse did not enter into the dynamic, because we both understood that our sensibilities were not the same, and that, left alone, either of our opinions might or might not have worked, but the point of the collaboration was to create a work that was Hartman and Midnight, not Hartman alone or Midnight alone...
    • Charlie Midnight on how Hartman taught him the art of collaboration in his book Deserve's Got Nothing to Do With It: Five Elements That Will Help You Survive Your Emotional Journey to Success (pgs. 41-42)
  • Somebody asked him to write a song for Aretha. You would get a demo that sounded like, you know, Aretha! If you asked him to write a song for Barry White, you’d get a demo that sounded like Barry White. He was brilliant at that.
    • Nona Hendryx on Hartman's ability to capture an artist's voice while writing a song in “Forever Nona” in 5 Magazine (2021 September 14)

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