Memories of Dan Hartman

 

Tom Robinson

Dan Hartman and Tom Robinson

Dan Hartman and Tom Robinson
(Courtesy of Tom Robinson)

When did you first meet Dan Hartman?

When the letter below arrived out of the blue after Dan had bought an import copy of "Still Loving You" which - despite major success in Italy and elsewhere - had never been released in the United States. It was handwritten

Multi-Level,


Westport

Dear Tom,

Seems like the time has come for me to write a short letter to you expressing my deep appreciation of your latest LP - "Still Loving You".

I've been living with it now for some months and always enjoy playing it. More than that, it always moves me - especially "Still Loving You" and some of the other thought-provoking pieces ("Tattoo"; "Spain"; "Love Town" & "The Wedding"). You've shown some real moments of emotion, anger, longing and warm romance; things we all experience & things we all dream of. Great record!

Best regards,
Dan Hartman
April 1987

It proved the beginning of a musical friendship that ended only with Dan's untimely death in March 1994.

When he next came to England, with his friend Richard, they came to dinner with my partner Sue and myself.

Can you tell us about your work with him?

On subsequent visits Dan came by my studio in Hammersmith and we wrote several songs together for my next album "We Never Had It So Good" (subsequently re-released as "Blood Brother")...in particular "Tomboy" - Dan was keen to help me write a fun, upbeat song about how a gay man could end up finding himself in love with a woman...

How was the decision made to have Dan play all of the instruments and do the vocals on "Tomboy?"

Actually Dan felt happiest making initial songwriting demos entirely on his own at home: so after he and I had knocked ideas around in London for a while, he took everything back to Multi-level and put together pretty complete demos for both "Tomboy" and "Kiss And Roll Over" which he mailed to me on Sony PCM 701 digital audio from America. This system used video tapes to store the information and we had endless problems because of the different PAL and NTSC standards in UK and US.

There was a third song that Dan never did demo and which as far as I know was never released, called "Alive In The Darkness".

Tell us about the song "Connecticut." Did you know that he was ill?

I had no idea that Dan had been ill - we hadn't heard from him for a couple of years, but with busy and successful friends pursuing a career in the music business that isn't so unusual. In the normal run of things, Dan would just call up again after a long absence and we'd pick up as if there'd been no break at all.

When our first baby was born in 1990 he went to Bloomingdales and sent us a load of Baby Dior clothes - he said he'd always wanted to go out and buy baby clothes, and we'd provided him with a perfect excuse.

Dan came to be respected as one of the great producers in music-can you tell us about his work and his skills as a producer?

He had a great understanding of the needs of both the artists he was working with, and of the commercial marketplace, and was able to uncannily find the common ground between the two. 

I remember before he pitched songs at Tina Turner for instance, he wrote and recorded two hugely commercial-sounding demos of new songs for her to listen to, where he'd not only played all the instruments himself but had done a note-perfect pastiche of her singing voice, so that she could hear how it would sound it she performed it. On the basis of those two demos (he later told us) Ms Turner then hired him to actually produce the remaining tracks on her album!

Dan experimented with many different types of music - which of his albums/tracks are your favourites?

Beyond a shadow of a doubt "Instant Replay" - it's so upbeat and infectiously optimistic. He told me that he wrote and recorded it when freshly and buoyantly, infatuatedly in love - and I think it shows in the grooves. And the sleeve artwork of the 12" single had all the notes written by Dan by hand - when I got his first letter out of the blue, the first thing I did was rush to my record collection to see if the signature was the same. It was!

Why do you think that there's so little information about Dan's background and personal life?

I fear Dan was very uneasy about the fact that he was gay, which is a huge shame. He suffered much prejudice and homophobia when he was young, and there's no question that it scarred him. It meant that his love life - which to Dan as an intensely romantic person was everything - still felt somehow furtive, to be hidden away and not quite respectable. 

Personally I'm convinced that Dan's homosexuality, the yearning and wistful erotic/tender longing deep in his soul, was the source of his great genius. Had fate made him a conventional rugged four-square beefy macho football-playing well-adjusted heterosexual mister nice-guy with a wife and two point four children, he would probably have stayed a jobbing bass player all his life. And how much poorer the world of music would have been as a result.

Can you share a few personal memories of Dan?

He was the most phenomenally motivated person it's ever been my privilege to meet. The word "can't" simply didn't exist in his vocabulary - it was always "why not?"

What do you miss most about Dan?

I miss his huge, abundant human warmth and generosity of spirit. Life is full of givers and takers - and Dan Hartman was definitely one of its biggest-hearted givers.

We shall not see his like again.

T x

Many thanks to Tom Robinson for his contribution.

 

Tom Robinson, a close friend of Dan Hartman, has dedicated "Connecticut" to Dan and included it on his "Having It Both Ways" album, released in 1996.

Connecticut (Robinson/Phillips/Fenner/Burt)

The message light was blinking as I walked in from the rain
The thunderclap erupted right outside my window pane
Across the cold Atlantic came a bolt out of the blue
I tried to lie and carry on but only thought of you

And it's raining in Connecticut
It's raining in LA
It's raining every place I go
Since you were blown away

Your laughter in the restaurant, the parties and champagne
The driven urge to prove yourself - to win and win again
The fortress that surrounded you - awards on all the walls
The demons in your darkness and the friends you never called

And it's raining in Connecticut, it's raining in LA
It's raining in the dead of night, it's raining every day
And it's raining in Australia - it's raining in Calais
It's raining every place I go since you were blown away

And I'm lost - tonight as I remember you
Your heart was even wider than your smile
And all you ever dreamed of was the one who'd love and hold you
As you carried on - now you're gone, gone gone

The echoes from the restaurant, of parties and champagne
The driven urge to win and win, your privacy and pain
The page of fading photographs, the bitter-tasting pill
The stranger we all knew so well... the friend we never will

And it's raining in Connecticut, it's raining in LA
It's raining in the dead of night, it's raining every day
It's raining in Australia - it's raining in Calais
It's raining every place I go since you were blown away

Yes it's raining in Connecticut, it's raining in LA
It's raining in the dead of night, been raining every day
Now it's raining in Australia, Bankok and Old Bombay
It's raining in the whole damn world
Since you were blown away

In memory of Dan Hartman d.1994

More information about Tom Robinson and musical collaborations here.

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