Legal Magazine

John Oates Tries to Sell His Music Catalog, and Daryl Hall Responds with Fuzzy Lawsuit, Essentially Saying: Wait a Minute; "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)"

Posted on the 27 November 2023 by Rogershuler @RogerShuler

Daryl Hall and John Oates (Getty Images)


The dispute behind a mysterious legal complaint involving one of the biggest musical acts of the 1980s (and 1970s) is starting to gain some clarity. Daryl Hall and John Oates hold the distinction of being the most successful duo of all time, ahead of such acts as the Carpenters, the Everly Brothers, and Simon & Garfunkel.

A lawsuit recently entered Hall & Oates massively successful partnership, and since the court file was mostly sealed, the public knew little about what was driving the conflict. Thanks to reporting from Axios, we now have a feel for what's going on. Writes Mike Allen of the Axios AM Newsletter:

In Axios PM last week, we told you the iconic rock duo Hall & Oates is in the thick of a mysterious litigation battle in Nashville. Daryl Hall was granted a restraining order against John Oates — but details were sealed. Now it's less mysterious:

Hall's court filing asserts that Oates plans to sell off his share of their joint venture, which would violate confidential terms, AP reports.

* A judge blocked the sale while arbitration and Hall's lawsuit are ongoing.

* A Nashville chancery court judge said in the Nov. 16 temporary restraining order that, for now, Oates and others involved in his trust can't move to close the sale of their share of Whole Oats Enterprises to Primary Wave IP Investment Management.

* Primary Wave has held a "significant interest" in Hall and Oates' copyright catalog for 15+ years.

Here is more from a separate Axios report

Known for hits such as "Rich Girl" and "You Make My Dreams," the award-winning duo met in Philadelphia while both were students at Temple University.

* When asked when the next Hall & Oates record would be coming out, Hall said " ... I have no idea. I don't have any plans to work with John. I mean, whatever. Time will tell," per an interview with the Los Angeles Times in March 2022.

* Asked about reports that the two were working on a record together, Hall said: "That was before the pandemic. Perceptions changed, life changed, everything changed. I'm more interested in pursuing my own world. And so is John."

Hall and Oates write most of their own material, either separately or collaboratively, with Oates providing electric guitar and backing vocals (and hand claps, per a gag on Saturday Night Live), and Hall taking a primary role as lead vocalist, chief songwriter, guitarist, and keyboardist. Hall has had bad experiences with transactions involving his music catalog, and it appears Oates' actions caught him off guard. Reports Mike Allen:

In a 2021 interview with Sky News, Hall showed he was bitter about the sale of his back catalog.

* "Oh, in the early days, it got sold off for me and I didn't get the money," he said. He advised artists to retain their publishing rights: "[A]ll you have is that."

As for the legal situation, Axios provides this background:

The lawsuit, classified as a "Contract/Debt" dispute within the Nashville Chancery Court, was filed Nov. 16.

* In the complaint, John Oates and his wife, Aimee Oates, are listed as defendants, along with Richard Flynn.

* Aimee Oates and Flynn are marked as co-trustees of The John W. Oates TISA Trust, according to the court records.

Court records also reveal Hall's request for a temporary restraining order, which was granted Nov. 17 and begins on Nov. 30.

* The restraining bond, per the record, was set at $50,000.

A court hearing is scheduled for this Thursday (11/30/23).

As an unabashed Hall & Oates fan, I'm hoping they will iron out their differences and return to making memorable music. The guys are getting up there in years -- Hall is 77 and Oates is 75 -- but I suspect they have quite a bit of gas left in their musical tank. As far as I can tell, their ability to combine elements of blue-eyed soul, R&B, rock, pop, and their hometown Philadelphia Sound is unique in the music world. 

Mrs. Schnauzer (my wife, Carol) and I had the good fortune to see Hall & Oates in concert a few years back at Birmingham's historic Alabama Theatre. We can confirm that they are a splendid live act. We would encourage any music lover who has a chance to see them to get tickets.

The Hall & Oates catalog is so extensive that  it's hard to pick out just a few favorites. A special favorite of mine is a song that is well-known, but many people might not realize it was written by Daryl Hall, and first performed by, Hall & Oates (on their 1980 Voices album). The originators never released it as a single, but British artist Paul Young released a cover version of "Every Time You Go Away" in 1985, and it became an international hit, going to No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 4 in the UK.

Here are Hall & Oates performing their original version of "Every Time You Go Away" in  1995. How strong are Daryl Hall's vocals here? I suspect vocal performance does not get much better than this. Enjoy!

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