John Oates On How “I Can’t Go For That” Inspired Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”

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Photo Credit: Erika Goldring/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Erika Goldring/Getty Images

kearthevents Britt Bickel
Web Producer |
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John Oates, one-half of the most successful music duo of all time with Hall & Oates, is gearing up for their sold-out show tonight at the OC Fair’s Pacific Amphitheatre!

John joined The K-EARTH 101 Morning Show today to talk about the lasting success of Hall & Oates’ music over the past three decades, and how he and Darryl Hall have sustained not only a huge fan-base, but also a rewarding musical partnership all these years.

“Darryl and I get along really well. We’re having a good time, we have and amazing band. We’re out there playing gigs all over the country, and festivals,” he said. “We have a whole new audience coming out to see us, so it’s really cool.”

When it comes to their extensive library, the ‘rock and soul’ duo has churned out six No.1 hits including “Rich Girl,” “Kiss on My List,” “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do),” and “Out of Touch,” plus several more hits in the Top 40.

We asked John about some of their memorable hits like “Sara Smile,” “Maneater,” and “You Make My Dreams,” which was notably used in the romantic comedy 500 Days of Summer.

“I loved the way they used that song in that movie, I thought it was really cool,” John said about “You Make My Dreams”. “Darryl came up with the keyboard riff that’s kind of funky…and then we just wrote it. It was a very quick song; took a few minutes.”

There’s also a legend that Hall & Oates’ No.1 hit “I Can’t Go For That” served as the inspiration for a hit for another artist later on – Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” According to John himself, the legend of MJ using the duo’s bass riff in “Billie Jean” wasn’t just a myth – it’s actually true.

“Well, that’s what he told us,” John recalled. “[Michael] came to one of our shows one year…he said that he used to love to work out his dance choreography routines to that song. Then he just eventually took the idea and ran with it.”

Another myth John debunked for us was that Hall & Oates’ major hit “Rich Girl” isn’t about a girl at all – it’s about a guy.

“That song is written about a guy. There was this guy who was the heir to a fast-food fortune, who was a friend of ours,” John explained. “Every time he would come over to our place in New York – he was completely nuts…totally insane – and obviously you can’t write about he’s a ‘rich guy’… so we changed guy to girl and that’s the story right there.”

If you didn’t get tickets to Hall & Oates’ OC Fair tonight, unfortunately you’re out of luck, because it’s sold out! Check the OC Fair’s concert site at pacamp.com/pa for more upcoming shows this summer.

Listen to more stories behind the songs in our full interview with John Oates in the clip below!

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