Dan Hartman flying high 12 years after taking his “Free Ride” with the Edgar Winter Group


By Steve Newton

Dan Hartman likes to pull people’s legs. That’s why, for the video of his big 1984 hit “I Can Dream About You”, he had four black guys doing the song, singing and dancing and sliding around. The first impression is that one of them must be Dan Hartman. Not quite! They’re “The Sorels”, a quartet of non-singing actors, lip-synching the tune.

Hartman is nowhere to be found.

“A lot of people ask me,” explains Dan, “if it bothers me to have the kind of image that is somewhat invisible, or that appears to be something else. It’s the same thing that happened when I did “Instant Replay” and made a record that everybody thought was a black girl singing. Here now I’m four black guys–and I just think it’s hilarious. Because the bottom line is that it communicates something to people, and that’s all that I’m really interested in. I’m just happy that people like what I do.”

And they certainly seem to. After its single release from the soundtrack of the film Streets of Fire, “I Can Dream About You” became a radio favourite and rose high on North American pop and black music charts. Though it’s certainly Hartman’s biggest hit so far, it’s not his first. He had two number one dance hits with “Relight My Fire” (1980) and the earlier “Instant Replay” (1979). And in the early seventies he was an integral part of the innovative and highly talented Edgar Winter Group.

The Edgar Winter Group is probably best remembered for its monster instrumental hit “Frankenstein” from the 1972 album They Only Come Out at Night. A young Dan Hartman sang lead and background vocals on the LP, and played bass, electric and acoustic guitar, ukulele, and maracas. He co-wrote four songs with Edgar, and also composed two on his own–the lovely love song “Autumn” and rocking ‘”Free Ride”, the first major hit to come from Hartman’s pen.

“It was an exciting period,” recalls Hartman of his Edgar Winter days. “I mean, we really based our strength on great songs on the record, And a great live performance too–I think that was the key to the success of that group.”

I remember seeing the WInter band live when they played the Pacific Coliseum around the time of “Frankenstein”‘s release, headlining above the Climax Blues Band and a European metal band called UFO that featured a teenage whiz-kid guitarist named Michael Schenker. Rick Derringer–who had just replaced guitarist Ronnie Montrose in the EWG–wasn’t about to be upstaged by an 18-year-old speedster, so he really lit a fire under his newfound bandmates. A glittery-costumed Hartman appeared to be having the time of his life, grinning the whole time like a Cheshire cat.

Though he was never really in the spotlight, which was reserved for Derringer’s guitar heroics and Winter’s synthesizer solos, Hartman was honing his talent and getting the behind-the-scenes experience that would get him where he is today, riding high with a new album, named after and containing the hit from Streets of Fire. I Can Dream About You is currently #55 and moving up on Billboard‘s Top 100 chart, and the single “We Are the Young” is doing well, both on the charts and in video form.

Like “I Can Dream About You”, “We Are the Young” is basically a live performance video, but this time Hartman does show up, along with his new seven-member band. At the end of the clip The Sorels join him onstage as well, “as a bit of an added surprise.”

His first LP on MCA Records, I Can Dream About You contains ten tunes, eight of which were co-written by Dan and New York singer-songwriter Charlie Midnight. (The two had also collaborated on the million-selling single from the film Breakin’, “Heart of the Beat”.

“For a number of years I’d written everything, for my own albums, by myself. But when Charlie was making his second album I wrote four songs with him, and said, ‘Boy, this guy is a great lyricist.’ He took the direction of something more than just frivolous, commercial, lightweight lyrics–there had to be something deeper or more sexual, or more romantic or something. And that’s what I always stretched for in my lyrics, I always wanted to add something more than just the excitement.”

The only songs on the new album that aren’t Hartman/Midnight compositions are the title track (which Dan wrote himself) and “Electricity”, which he wrote with Nona Hendryx. That song first appeared on her Self Defense LP, but Hartman also wanted to do it “in a little more rock and roll vein”.

As well as singing and playing most of the instruments on the record, Hartman coproduced it along with Jimmy (Springsteen, Tom Petty) Iovine. The role of producer is nothing new to him either: he has made over 30 albums in the 24-track studio that’s situated at his home in Connecticut. His productions credits include the first two .38 Special albums, the Plasmatics’ Metal Priestess, and Foghat’s Night Shift (which achieved gold status).

“In each of those cases they were things that either came to me, or which I chose to reach out and produce for some interest or fascination I had. .38 Special asked me to produce them, so I checked them out, happened to like the band a lot, and got to be good friends with them. And in the case of the Plasmatics, I went out and found them.

“And it’s kind of funny,” he adds, “cause when I was producing the Plasmatics I was also writing for Diana Ross.” (He wrote “It’s Never Too Late” for her Why Do Fools Fall in Love album). “So that was quite a range of people–talking to Diana Ross and then talking to Wendy O. Williams. And then I went from that into producing Neil Sedaka!”

All the time spent writing and working in studios over the last few years has given Hartman a real longing for the stage. So very soon he’ll be out on tour, appearing as a frontman instead of bassist this time, with the same band that’s in the “We Are the Young” video.

“This is the first time since the Edgar Winter Group that I’ve really had the kind of statements in my music, and the kind of statements to go out and sing these songs live. The other times I was just happy making records, but now I’m really excited about going on the road.”


To hear the full audio of my 1984 interview with Dan Hartman–and my interviews with Edgar Winter, Ronnie Montrose, and Rick Derringer as well–subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 400 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Sean Costello, 2006
Roger Hodgson from Supertramp, 1998
Tommy Stinson from the Replacements, 1993
Brian Blush of the Refreshments, 1997
Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, 2003
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Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1993
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David “Honeyboy” Edwards, 2003
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Taj Mahal, 2001
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Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
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Terry Bozzio, 2003
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Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
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Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
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Tony Carey, 1984
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Jeff Healey, 1988
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Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
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Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
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Billy Idol, 1984
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Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
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Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Alice Cooper, 1986
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John Doe, 1990
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John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
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Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
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Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
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Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
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David Lee Roth, 1994
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John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
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Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
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Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
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Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
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Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
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Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
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Link Wray, 1997
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….with hundreds more to come


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