Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fade to Black

Over at his Web site Rule Forty-Two, my friend Gavin Edwards has been leading us through an insanely detailed look at MTV's year-end video countdown from 1988. I highly recommend it, especially because you can be reminded of such insipidness as Paul Carrack's "Don't Shed a Tear" without having to listen to the song.

One video Gavin won't be covering is Dan Hartman's "I Can Dream About You," which came out in 1984. The strange thing about this video is that Dan Hartman looked like this:

You would never have known that, though, if you were watching MTV back in 1984, because the video featured a much younger man in sunglasses gamboling around a stage in front of a trio of background singers. Oh, and he was black.

The song was featured in a potboiler called Streets of Fire, an action film set in the music industry. Hartman had written the song, which was performed in the movie by a fictional group called the Sorels, with vocals dubbed in by a singer named Winston Ford. But for reasons that are unclear to me - who really knows why Hollywood does anything - the version that ended up on the movie's soundtrack album was the one sung by Dan Hartman himself.

So the video was carved out of the scene in Streets of Fire where the Sorels performed it. The amazing thing is that the head Sorel Stoney Jackson (whose real name was Stonewall Jackson, swear to God) was lip-syncing to Winston Ford in the movie, but he also works seamlessly with the Dan Hartman version. No one watching the video on MTV had any idea this thing was lip-synced, much less that it was lip-synced to an entirely different version of the vocal. (This was partly because Streets of Fire was seen by approximately six people.) My guess is that Hartman cut a guide vocal for Ford, so Ford always performed the song exactly the way Hartman did.

One wonders if Dan Hartman was disappointed that most people believed his biggest hit was performed by an entirely different man. Then again, he was 33 years old at the time, a bit long in the tooth for a pop star, and his only prior chart success had been a disco hit called "Instant Replay" that sneaked into the Top Thirty in very early 1979. (Hartman had also spent five years in the Edgar Winter Group, although he doesn't appear to be albino.) He was probably grateful for hits any way he could get them.

We could ask Dan Hartman how he felt about the video, but he died of a brain tumor in 1994, at the way-too-young age of 43. We've all seen the video for "I Can Dream About You" a hundred billion times, so here it is with a twist: This is culled from actual Streets of Fire footage, presenting the song as it was in the film, with vocals by Winston Ford:


  1. I was one of the six people to see "Streets of Fire." Still one of my guilty pleasures. Always glad to see someone mention it.

  2. Thanks Tom! I hadn’t thought of this song in ages. This song is to 80s Hall & Oates what Player’s “Baby Come Back” is to 70s Hall & Oates!

    Dan Hartman charted even harder with JB’s “Living In America,” but it’s probably fair to say his most famous song will always be “Free Ride.” What a strange and interesting career.

  3. I had no idea he wrote "Free Ride"! I guess J. Geils didn't write "Centerfold" either, nor did Dave Clark write "Over and Over."

  4. Has any 2-hit wonder ever had 2 hits as dissimilar as "Free Ride" and "Frankenstein"? both are classics, both have stayed in perpetual rotation, both ALWAYS sound great, but they sure sound like 2 different bands.

  5. A Taste of Honey had the guitar-fueled disco extravaganza "Boogie Oogie Oogie" and the Japanese-style easy-listening "Sukiyaki."

  6. Interestingly enough Dan Hartman originally offered "I Can Dream About You" to Hall and Oates but they had already finished an album at the time and so Dan used it elsewhere. Dan also made an alternative version of the video which featured himself. More on this at

  7. I've posted a video on YouTube which features Dan Hartman explaining why actors took his place in the 'I Can Dream About You' video: