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

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JAN. 18, 1985

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, Foghat’s Night Shift (which achieved gold status), and the Plasmatics’ Metal Priestess.

“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 250 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
Craig Northey of Strippers Union, 2021
Melissa Etheridge, 1990
Joe Jackson, 2003
Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity, 2001
David Ellefson of Megadeth, 1992
David Lee Roth, 2003
Grant Walmsley of the Screaming Jets, 1991
John Popper of Blues Traveler, 1991
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 2012
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1993
Ellen McIlwaine, 2001
Derek Trucks of Tedeschi Trucks, 2012
J.D. Fortune of INXS, 2006
Fernando von Arb of Krokus, 1984
Gary Holt of Exodus, 1985
Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses, 1992
Scott Ian of Anthrax, 2012
Gary Lee Conner of Screaming Trees, 1992
Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, 1985
David “Honeyboy” Edwards, 2003
Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions, 1992
Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, 2001
Jeff Keith of Tesla, 1988
Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton of Arc Angels, 1992
Marc Bonilla, 1992
Mike Smith of Sandbox (and Trailer Park Boys), 1996
Dewey Bunnell of America, 1983
Robert Randolph of the Family Band, 2003
Keith Strickland of the B-52s, 2008
David Johansen of the New York Dolls, 2005
Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon, 2003
Todd Kerns, 2016
Bill Payne of Little Feat, 2002
Robbin Crosby of Ratt, 1989
Tommy Shannon of SRV & Double Trouble, 1998
Alejandro Escovedo, 1997
Billy Duffy of the Cult, 1989
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
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Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
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
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
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
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
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
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
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
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
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
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
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
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
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Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
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Sonny Landreth, 2016
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Otis Rush, 1997
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Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
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Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
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Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
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Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
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Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
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Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
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Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001

….with hundreds more to come

 

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