The sad news came down today today that Delfonics frontman William “Poogie” Hart died from complications during a surgery. He was 77.
“His music touched millions, continues to touch millions,” his son Hadi told Rolling Stone. “His body might not be here, but his music will live forever. He was a great man, he loved his family, he loved God, and he just loved people. Great heart, great spirit. That was my dad.”
Hart fronted the Delfonics from their formation in the mid-Sixties all the way through their most recent tours. Their popularity peaked in the late Sixties and early Seventies, when they released classic Philly Soul songs like “La-La (Means I Love You),” “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide From Love),” and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time.)” Hart co-wrote most of their hits with producer Thom Bell, and his stunning falsetto gave the group a signature sound.
Their momentum stalled in the mid-Seventies when disco started taking over, but they never stopped touring and maintained a loyal following. In 1997, after years on the oldies revue circuit, they received an incredible gift from Quentin Tarantino when the director prominently featured their music in his Pulp Fiction follow-up, Jackie Brown.
The movie stars Pam Grier as an airline stewardess who gets busted for smuggling drugs across the border. Character actor Robert Forster plays a bail bondsman who falls in love with her; when they’re first getting to know each other, she plays “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” on her record player. Forster is later seen buying a copy of the Delfonics’ greatest hits on cassette, and playing it in his car stereo as he drives across Los Angeles.
This compilation of scenes from Jackie Brown gives a sense of how integral the Delfonics’ sophisticated, romantic soul music is to the movie. The group is mentioned by name several times, and the movie caused a huge resurgence of interest in their work. It also helped revive the career of Grier, who had been seen by many as a Seventies has-been before Tarantino pulled another John Travolta and reminded the world what a subtle, convincing screen presence she is. (Some critics at the time dismissed Jackie Brown as a disappointing follow-up to Pulp Fiction, but they’re wrong. It’s a masterpiece on par with any of his other best movies.)
The Delfonics continued to tour until just a few months back, when Hart was sidelined by health problems. They never got off the stage without performing “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time),” and it’s impossible to hear it today without thinking of Pam Grier picking up the record, blowing off the dust, and blowing Robert Forster’s mind