William Hart, lead singer/songwriter of The Delfonics, dead at 77

Hart sang and co-wrote Philly soul classics like "La-La Means I Love You" and "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)."

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William “Poogie” Hart, the longtime lead singer of the hitmaking R&B trio, The Delfonics, has died at age 77. His son Hadi confirmed the news to TMZ.

Hadi stated that Hart was taken to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia on Thursday after having trouble breathing. The singer/songwriter later died from complications from surgery.

Hart was a founding member of The Delfonics along with brother Wilbert Hart and Randy Cain. The group became one of the most important acts of the Philly soul scene during the 1960s and 1970s, along with groups like The Stylistics and The O’Jays.

In addition to singing lead, Hart was also The Delfonics’ principal songwriter, partnering with Thom Bell, who later became one of R&B’s most legendary composers, producers and arrangers. The group became well-known for Hart’s signature falsetto; the group’s doo-wop inspired vocal harmonies and Bell’s lush, sophisticated string arrangements.

Together, Hart and Bell wrote several Billboard R&B hits for The Delfonics during the mid-1960s into 1970, including “La-La Means I Love You,” “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide From Love),” “Break Your Promise” and the Grammy Award-winning “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time).”

Bell and Hart would part ways after Hart had a financial dispute with The Delfonics’ management and Cain would leave the group as well, as chronicled on TVOne’s “Unsung.” However, the trio soldiered on, adding singer Major Harris to the lineup and gaining more Top 20 R&B hits like “Hey! Love.”

By the mid-70s, Harris would leave for a solo career, gaining popularity with the ballad, “Love Won’t Let Me Wait.” Hart and his brother split up over financial issues, each touring with a version of The Delfonics over the next few decades.

The Delfonics’ music was sampled heavily during the 1990s by hip-hop acts and others. This includes “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide From Love),” sampled by both The Fugees and Missy Elliott.

Hart’s final album, “Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics,” was released in 2013, with Younge, a two-time Grammy-winner, handling the production and arranging.

TheGrio music writer Matthew Allen contributed to this article.

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