The lives of musicians are rarely straightforward. Yet you’d be hard-pressed to find a tale as fascinating — or inspiring — as that of John Hall. In his winding journey from clubs and theaters to the Billboard charts and the top of Capitol Hill, he’s consistently beat the odds, overcome challenges, and defied the disbelievers. As the principal force behind pop-R&B band Orleans, he penned some of the most enduring (not to mention romantic) songs of the classic rock era, including “Dance With Me” and “Still The One.” He has also written songs for artists from Janis Joplin to Bonnie Raitt, Ricky Skaggs to James Taylor. As a Democratic Congressman in a solidly Republican district, he convinced the skeptical to take habitat destruction and our imperiled climate seriously. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Veterans’ Disability and Memorial Affairs, he authored a bill speeding the compensation of our injured vets which passed the Senate and House unanimously and was signed into law by President George W. Bush. Every step of the way, he’s been motivated by the same thing: love of music, communication, and respect for Planet Earth and all who dwell on it. His passion is profound, his voice is influential, and with the luminous “I Think Of You,” he’s back in the game as a singer-songwriter.
The Baltimore-born, New York-bred artist’s latest song has all the (dare we say it?) Hall-marks of his work: a gorgeous, finely-wrought melody, a rich and shimmering guitar sound, a gentle but undeniably danceable beat, and lyrics about the eternal resilience of a romantic bond. He performs the way he always has — with absolute compassion and genuine approachability. As beautiful and inimitable as his singing is, Hall’s voice is the voice of an Everyman: a helpful neighbor, a true lover, and a believer in the power of songs and ideas.
That common touch has always enabled this uncommonly talented artist to connect with so many others. In his work with Orleans and on his solo sets, he was always able to capture big, complicated emotions and present them to audiences in comprehensible and appealing ways. He did the same thing in a political career devoted to advocacy, co-founding Musicians United for Safe Energy and marching for sane energy policy with the like-minded artists Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, and Bonnie Raitt. The aura of charisma and compassion that has always surrounded him is on bold display in the clip for “I Think of You,” which he wrote with Hall of Fame songwriter Sharon Vaughn. Here we see John Hall, the raconteur, the television personality, and the introspective balladeer, locating the heart of the tune, the kernel of meaning, and expressing it purely as a master storyteller can.
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