I don’t like to write about corporate matters, but I do like to write about my favorite musical artists – Daryl Hall and John Oates, so when an opportunity presents itself to leverage a Hall and Oates reference in the context of life at the 9:5, I’m willing to make an exception.
I was in a meeting where praise and plaudits were flowing like the Slurpree machine at 7-11 on a hot summer day.
After the backslapping session, I was asked by an associate why I didn’t take more credit for a successful high profile project of which I was an instrumental part.
I answered, “Just call me John Oates.” My colleague was a bit confused by my response.
I shared the story of Hall and Oates’ meteoric ascension to the top of the charts in the 80s, and how during that period, John came to accept the fact that Daryl’s voice had become the sound of Hall and Oates.
My co-worker still didn’t get it, so I continued.
John understood that Daryl sang the hits. The hits sold records. The records drew (and still do) revenue.
Even though he wrote, co-wrote and/or arranged a respectable number of their most memorable songs, John – a decent vocalist in his own right – saw the wisdom and good business sense in taking a back seat – vocally speaking – to Daryl.
And I told my colleague that’s what I did – metaphorically speaking – during our meeting, and in most aspects of my professional life.
Much like my soft spoken, spotlight-shunning idol, I don’t need to be the front man. I know my worth and what I bring to the table. Sadly, too often we encounter – shall we say – lead singers who would do a better job gassing up the tour bus than carrying a tune center stage.
With skin that fits me comfortably like a glove, I’m perfectly fine singing background vocals (of course until it’s time to embark on a solo tour – a story for another day).
With advancing age comes (if you’re lucky) advancing self-awareness. It’s just another positive side effect – The Oates effect – of life in the middle ages.
Don’t run away, this isn’t another blatant example of loyal fan worship of the greatest duo in musical history – I’m only using them, or better stated one of them as an example.
Allow me to explain.
The ‘one of them’ is John Oates, who was the subject of a recent article discussing – among other things – why the duo’s biggest hits feature Daryl Hall’s lead vocals.
According to John (because in my mind we’re on a first name basis),
“…over the years…Daryl’s voice became synonymous with the sound of Hall and Oates…”
Stay with me, we’re almost there. John goes on to say,
“Daryl’s voice just connected on radio…It connected in a way that made us popular — and I had to make some decisions with some of the songs…Should I have Daryl sing it and have the possibility of having a No. 1 record or should I sing it and there’s a good possibility it might not be a No. 1 record?”
“And that’s maybe why Daryl and I have existed over the years, because I was willing to make a lot of those hard decisions.”
Where am I going with this?
John made decisions that were best for the band, best for business and best for their relationship.
Setting personal interests aside and doing something for the greater good? Definitely!
And that’s my point, sometimes it takes a healthy amount of self-confidence to enable us to put ego aside and look at the bigger picture and the subsequent bigger benefits.
In most cases, of course, we have to look out for number one (song cue), but every now and then, it makes sense to be number 1.5 or 2.
Now don’t get all worked up. I’m by no means suggesting selling out, tossing aside your principles or allowing yourself to be taken advantage of. I just think there are times – in our personal and business lives – when we have to step back, be confident and comfortable in our own skin and think less about what’s best for us, but what’s best for the – take your pick – relationship, partnership, business, and I’m sure there are others.
And yes, sometimes it’s okay to let someone else sing lead vocals.
(Alright, just a little fan worship. Even though Daryl (again first name basis) sang the big hits, John was no slouch vocally – check out a couple these deep cuts for proof)