Co-founder and Lead Singer of The Delfonics, William Hart, Dies at 77

William “Poogie” Hart, lead singer and songwriter for the celebrated soul outfit the Delfonics, has died at age 77. Hart’s son, Hadi, confirmed the news to Rolling Stone explaining the singer died from surgery complications.

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“His music touched millions, continues to touch millions,” Hadi said. “His body might not be here, but his music will live forever. He was a great man, he loved his family, he loved God, and he just loved people. Great heart, great spirit. That was my dad.”

Hart and the rest of the Delfonics trio rose to prominence at the end of the ’60s with a unique blend of rich orchestral arrangements and funk influences. They were one of the trailblazing groups that helped to pave the way for the “Philly soul” movement of the era.

With Hart’s songwriting efforts and signature falsetto helming the outfit, they clinched a number of hits songs like “La-La (Means I Love You),” “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time” and the widely sampled “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide from Love)”.

Between 1968 and 1974, the Delfonics released five studio albums and had 12 tracks in the Top 20 on the Billboard charts. The group received a line-up change in 1975, with Hart leading a new version of the group. Original Delfonics members, Wilbert Hart and Major Harris, would occasionally tour with Hart’s new group but maintained their own soul outfit on the side.

The group had a major resurgence in the ’90s thanks in large part to the Fugees, who reinterpreted “Ready or Not Here I Come” for the 1996 hit “Ready or Not.” Missy Elliot also sampled the same song on her track “Sock It 2 Me,” while the Notorious B.I.G song “Playa Hater” took inspiration from The Delfonics’ “Hey! Love.” Elsewhere Prince covered “La-La (Means I Love You) on his 1996 album, Emancipation while “Didn’t I” received a prominent feature in Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 movie, Jackie Brown.

Hart continued to tour and record with the Delfonics well into the 2010s. In a 2013 interview with Wax Poetics, Hart reflected on his career saying, “There’s always this little lurking thing in the back of my mind. I was riding down the street in my car and I heard the first song that I ever recorded for the first time on the radio. And I couldn’t believe I was hearing myself on the radio, and that sticks in my mind.”

He continued, “It’s like something that never goes away. I remember the time of day it was, I remember exactly where I was, and it was amazing to hear, you know? It was ‘He Don’t Really Love You’ — that was the first hit, the first song we put out. So when I heard that on the radio, that was the highlight of my life, even above getting the Grammy.”

(Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

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