At first glance, Dan Hartman isn’t the most obvious choice to make the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. As far as potential inductees go, he is a really obscure one. As an artist, he had four top 40 hits, but only one top ten, and that one was a soundtrack hit in which he did not even appear in the main video. I have written about his life and career a bit before , and it should be pointed out that this particular induction wouldn’t be a sympathy vote given the difficulties of his career and his tragic and deeply private personal life. This particular case for induction, in the category of Award for Musical Excellence, is one that is fully earned by the career that he had, which was a varied and complex career that included many different facets of the music industry. If Dan Hartman is an obscure person with regards to the history of rock & roll, he had a role that in many ways is similar to someone like Gerry Rafferty  and Paul Carrack , and that makes for a compelling case for induction, albeit one that is somewhat unconventional, and which requires a bit more than the usual digging and investigation.
The Influence Of Dan Hartman
Dan Hartman’s influence was a very subtle one. He was, for example, a noted person when it came to soundtrack pop. His biggest hit, “I Can Dream About You,” came from the Streets Of Fire soundtrack. His solo version of “Free Ride,” a hit with the Edgar Winter Group, appeared in a soundtrack to a Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers movie, and he even wrote and performed a hit song for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle soundtrack called “That’s Your Consciousness.” His song “Relight My Fire,” a popular dance song (one of his 3 #1 hits on that chart) appeared in a Grand Theft Auto game. Yet beyond being a talented vocalist with the Edgar Winter Group and as a solo musician, he also wrote and produced a lot of music for others. He produced music for bands as diverse as .38 Special (their debut album) and Black Box and co-wrote and produced the comeback smash “Living In America” for James Brown, which not so coincidentally happened to be a soundtrack smash hit itself. However private his personal life was, and it was private, his skill at writing and producing other acts as well as performing his own material gave him an enduring influence in the music world that deserves recognition.
Why Dan Hartman Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Dan Hartman’s career is a classic example of someone who lifts the musical quality of other products and other people. Most of his contributions were in the field of either dance music, where he excelled as a producer and performer with three #1 hits (“Instant Replay,” “Vertigo/Relight My Fire,” and “We Are The Young”) or soundtracks, where he performed and wrote such notable songs as “I Can Dream About You” and “Living In America” and even songs for Disney films like Oliver & Company. He was also a noted co-writer and producer outside of soundtracks, writing and performing and producing with such artists as Steve Winwood, Tina Turner, Dusty Springfield, Joe Cocker, Bonnie Tyler, Diana Ross, Ian Hunter, Neil Sedaka, and others. He even had an artistically (if not commercially) successful new age album. Whether it was singing backup on “Back In The High Life Again” or writing and producing songs like “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?,” Dan Hartman was a flexible figure in terms of style and approach who made a lot of music better . And that flexibility and excellence behind the scenes is worthy of recognition.
Why Dan Hartman Isn’t In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
When it comes to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a lot of the people who work behind the scenes tend to be neglected. This shouldn’t be the case, but considering that Dan Hartman’s work was often anonymous in nature, whether it was creating worthwhile soundtrack music or playing instruments, writing, singing backup vocals, or producing music for others, he simply did not get the sort of credit that he deserved. And being a private man who died of AIDS-related complications, and never married or had any children, he does not have the sort of loud cheering section that someone of his talent and stature should have. And that should change.
Verdict: Put him in. It’s time for a posthumous recognition of his talent and skills at improving the music of others.
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