Philadelphia’s William Hart — the lead singer, co-songwriter, and founding member of iconic Philadelphia soul trio The Delfonics — has passed away today at age 77, according to Rolling Stone. Hart and his bandmates’ creative streak of heartfelt, infectious pop records from the late 60s to mid-70s helped put Philly soul on the map, and shaped the city as a booming music industry town.
A resident of West Philadelphia, Hart began singing in groups with his brother Wilbert and their mutual friend Randy Cain while attending Overbrook High School. In 1965, a chance encounter with a customer at the barbershop where he worked connected him with Thom Bell, a producer/arranger for iconic local label Cameo-Parkway. Bell recorded their first single “He Don’t Really Love You,” released under the name The Orphonics; soon the band changed its name to The Delfonics, and released their debuted LP La La Means I Love You in 1968.
Hart and The Delfonics won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance in 1971 for their hit single “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time),” the opening track to the band’s self-titled third album, and a song that went Gold in 1970. The band’s classic lineup split in 1974 following their fifth album, Alive and Kicking, though various versions of The Delfonics toured through the years — one led by William and the other by William.
Their songs have also lived on in cover versions and samples stretching back decades — whether it’s Aretha Franklin’s version of “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” on her 1972 album Young, Gifted, and Black (a song also recorded by New Kids on the Block in 1986), The Fugees sampling “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide from Love)” on their 1996 song “Ready Or Not” (a song previously covered by The Jackson 5), or Nothing covering “La La Means I Love You” in 2021.
In 1995, The Delfonics received a star on the Philly Music Walk of Fame on Broad Streey, and in 2014, The Delfoncis were inducted into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.