October 4, 2021
“She’s Gone” – Daryl Hall & John Oates
One great song alone doesn’t make a great album. But the best LPs do sometimes feature one that becomes a classic. Thus far in this song draft, “She’s Gone” by Daryl Hall & John Oates, marks the third that has come from an album that was in my top ten from that previous series. While I welcome bringing some variety to the table by selecting songs from LPs not in my top ten, these three were simply too special to me to not be chosen.
“She’s Gone” is a timelessly perfect soul ballad that was the single from Daryl Hall & John Oates’ 1973 Atlantic Records album Abandoned Luncheonette. At the time of its release, the song got good airplay and became a “regional” hit in the New York area and of course their hometown of Philadelphia. However, it was brutally apparent to most all who heard it that this just was not fair, and that “She’s Gone” deserved much more than that, only getting as far as #60 nationally on the Hot 100 single charts. This fact was recognized by the soul band Tavares who in 1974 took their version of the song to #1 on the R&B charts, although only reaching 10 spots higher than the duo did on the Hot 100.
But, when Hall & Oates received greater acclaim for the song “Sara Smile” three years later on RCA Records, the folks at Atlantic knew that were still sitting on a gem and in 1976 rereleased “She’s Gone” as a single. Well, the third time was the charm (if you count the Tavares cover) and the song went all the way to #7 on the Hot 100, helping shape the song into the radio classic that it is today.
Of course, a great song needs great lyrics and Daryl and John put some together penning “She’s Gone” at a time when both were going through breakups. They paint a real-life picture of the sad situation that most, if not all of us, have had the misfortune of finding ourselves in. And this song doesn’t even turn around to have a happy ending! Witness Hall singing lines like “I better learn how to face it” and “I’d pay the devil to replace her.”
One lonely scene of loss the song pictures that has always been my favorite is in the line “I’m worn as her toothbrush hangin’ in the stand.” At first, I misunderstood it to be “One less toothbrush hangin’ in the stand” which would also have been a great line! (Fledgling songwriters – feel free to take it!)
But, as much as we all love words, a song ain’t going nowhere on the charts or into the kingdom of classics without a great performance. For “She’s Gone,” proof of that only requires one listen. Both Hall’s lead vocal and Oates shadowing vocals are over-the-top brilliant. (And they still sublimely sing it today, almost 50 years later!) And the song’s arrangement by legendary producer Arif Mardin is so perfect, that changing a single note would be like painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa.
Hands down, “She’s Gone” is my favorite song of all time to sing along to. In the shower, in the car, I’ve probably sang it nearly as often as the boys play it in concert. So, listen to it and learn it, and I promise that you will love it like I do. And by all means, go see Hall & Oates while you still can because seeing them sing it live on stage is one performance you don’t want to say you never got to see.