William “Poogie” Hart, the lead singer and founding member of the Philadelphia soul outfit the Delfonics, has died. As TMZ reports, Hart was taken to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia after experiencing trouble breathing and died from complications during surgery on Thursday, July 14. He was 77.
Growing up in Philadelphia, Hart sang in a number of groups as a teenager before forming the Orphonics while still in high school with his brother, Wilbert Hart, and their friends Randy Cain and Richie Daniels. After being introduced to songwriter and producer Thom Bell, the group rebranded as the Delfonics, putting out singles in 1966 and 1967 before scoring a hit in 1968 with ‘La-La (Means I Love You)’, which reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and featured on the soundtrack for the 1997 Quentin Tarantino film Jackie Brown. The soundtrack also included ‘Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)’, which was released in 1969 and won them the Grammy for Best R&B Performance.
After releasing five studio albums between 1968 and 1974, the Delfonics broke up in 1975, splitting into two groups each featuring a different Hart brother. Core members would even switch between groups over the coming decades, and the two versions of the Delfonics continued to tour separately up until William’s death.
The Delfonics’ songs took on new life as they were frequently covered and sampled, particularly in the 1990s. The Fugees sampled their 1968 song ‘Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide From Love)’ on their 1996 single ‘Ready or Not’, while Missy Elliott sampled the same track on her single ‘Sock It 2 Me’. Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘Playa Hater’ included a sample of the Delfonics’ ‘Hey! Love’, and Prince’s 1996 album Emancipation featured a cover of ‘La-La (Means I Love You)’. In 1996, Hart teamed up with Ghostface Killah to sing backing vocals on the Ironman track ‘After the Smoke Is Clear’.
“You taught me so much and gave so much to the world of music,” Adrian Younge, the producer who collaborated with William Hart on the album Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics, wrote in a statement. “The master singer…the master writer…the man that created songs that changed the world. You are missed brotha. Love you man.”