William Hart, Co-founder and Lead Singer of the Delfonics, Dead at 77

Photo: Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

William Hart, a singer best known for co-founding the classic soul group the Delfonics, died on Thursday, July 14, according to Rolling Stone. He was 77. Hart’s son, Hadi, confirmed the news, telling Rolling Stone that the death was due to complications during surgery. “His music touched millions, continues to touch millions. His body might not be here, but his music will live forever,” said Hadi. “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.”

In Hart’s own words to Wax Poetics, the “definitive” Delfonics lineup was himself, his brother Wilbert Hart, and Randy Cain. The Delfonics’ legacy is perhaps best captured in a 1975 profile of the group in New Musical Express, in which Bob Fisher wrote, “The real sound of Philadelphia belongs to the Delfonics, who started not only the Philly sound but almost the whole black vocal-group syndrome back in 1968 with ‘La-La (Means I Love You).’”

The song, the Delfonics’ biggest hit, peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. These days, the group is equally well known for songs like “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide From Love),” which was covered by the Jackson 5 in 1970 and famously interpolated by the Fugees in 1996 on the song “Ready or Not.” Hart wrote much of the Delfonics’ iconic music, including both “La-La (Means I Love You)” and “Ready or Not Here I Come.” Other hits include 1968’s “I’m Sorry” and 1970’s “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time),” for which Hart won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group as a member of the Delfonics at the 13th Annual Grammy Awards. It lives on in memorable scenes from Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.

William Hart, Lead Singer of the Delfonics, Dead at 77