Temple University’s School of Media and Communication has honored a list of alumni who went on to accomplished careers in journalism.
This year’s Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Award went to a man who never worked as a journalist. Instead, he became one half of the music duo Hall and Oates.
Like lots of young people in the ’60s, John Oates enrolled in college without a strong idea of what he wanted to do. All the kid from North Wales, Pennsylvania, knew was that he wanted to be in the big city, and that he was a pretty good writer. So he studied journalism.
“I thought of myself as a writer,” said Oates at the award luncheon Friday in Temple’s Mitten Hall. “That writing, of course, translated into songwriting. But even to this day — for you journalists out there — I still use the inverted pyramid concept for my pop songs. Because if you can’t grab them with a title and a hook, what do you have?”Oates never worked in a newsroom. At Temple, he met Darryl Hall, and together they sneaked into the campus radio station WRTI — late at night, when nobody was there — to record a song they had written. That song was terrible, remembered Oates, but for Hall and Oates it was a start toward huge pop hits including “Maneater,” “Sara Smile” and “Private Eyes.”
“Everything I do has Philadelphia at its root. Everything. And I mean that,” said Oates, who now splits his time between Aspen, Colorado, and Nashville, Tennessee. “The core of what we do is this unusual hybrid of Philadelphia urban R&B and traditional American music. Which all was happening in Philadelphia, in the ’60s, when we were here.”
Oates is not writing music with Hall anymore — he writes solo material — but the two still tour extensively. Hall and Oates also have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.