Hall was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1948 and later lived many years in New York’s Hudson River Valley. In high school he was three-time National Science Foundation scholar. At Notre Dame University he studied physics, but later transferred to Loyola College.
After a time at Loyola, he left school to pursue a full-time career in music. By 21 he was writing and composing music for Broadway and off-Broadway productions. He then became a session musician and songwriter, spending time with artists such as Janis Joplin, Seals & Crofts, and Bonnie Raitt.
Then in January 1972, at about age 24, John Hall became a founding member of Orleans, forming the group at Woodstock, New York in Ulster County. Other members at the time included Wells Kelly and Larry Hoppen. Lance Hoppen, Larry’s brother, joined the band later that year. Another member Jerry Marotta, also joined later. Hall served as the group’s songwriter and as one of its guitarists.Orleans soon became a top 1970s American rock band turning out hits such as: “Dance with Me”(1975), “Still the One”(1976), and “Love Takes Time”(1979).
Orleans had first started out touring clubs and colleges in the northeast U.S. However, the group soon had a recording contract with ABC Dunhill Records, releasing Orleans, a debut album in 1973.
Their first Billboard Hot 100 hit came in early 1975 with “Let There Be Music” on Asylum Records. “Dance With Me” followed, rising to No. 6 on the pop charts. “Dance With Me” placed the group in a “soft-rock” category, and they toured with Melissa Manchester, but also with bands such as Little Feat.
In 1976, another big hit came with “Still the One.” The single peaked at No.5 on the charts as Orleans then did a major cross-country tour with Jackson Browne.
Orleans – “Still the One”
The ABC television network, meanwhile, made “Still The One” its theme song for a 1977 promotional campaign, giving the song continuing and wide exposure to a large national audience. The song was also used in TV advertising spots and movie soundtracks. However, within Orleans, some internal stresses emerged, and John Hall left the group to pursue a solo career. He formed the John Hall Band and released two albums, but this venture disbanded after limited success.
John Hall, Activist
During his music career, meanwhile, John Hall had become active in the anti-nuclear movement, co-founding Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE). He co-produced “No Nukes” concerts that were held in Madison Square Garden in the late 1970s. He was also involved in successfully fighting a proposed nuclear power plant site on the Hudson River in Greene County, New York. Living in Saugerties, New York, he co-founded Saugerties Concerned Citizens and helped write the town’s first zoning law. When Ulster County announced plans for a 200-acre solid waste dump to be sited on a historic farm, Hall led the opposition. By 1989, Hall was elected as an Ulster County legislator. In the late 1990s he was twice elected to the Saugerties Board of Education, later becoming Board president.
During this time, however, Hall had not abandoned his music. He continued writing songs for other artists and reunited with Orleans in 1990, 1996, and 2000. In 2005, he released Rock Me on the Water, an album of songs inspired by an extensive sailing trip he’d taken. He also formed another band named Gulf Stream Night. But politics soon became John Hall’s central gig.
Bid For Congress
In 2006, Hall set his sights on higher public office, then concerned for the future of the Hudson River Valley and disillusioned with the war in Iraq. He ran in the Democratic primary for a seat in the U.S. Congress representing New York’s 19th congressional district. He won the primary with 48 percent in a four-way race and then faced incumbent Republican Sue W. Kelly in the fall elections. In October, the New York Times — noting he was a musician, but “not a posturer or political dabbler” — endorsed Hall for Congress. “His platform is ambitious and coherent,” said the Times, “with calls for universal health coverage, a return to fiscal discipline and a full-bore national effort to achieve energy independence. He blends a deep-blue idealism with a crisp command of details…”However, his opponent, Republican Sue Kelly, had been a popular, six-term incumbent, who was well funded in her races. She had won handedly in 2004 with 73 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, Hall defeated Kelly in November 2006 with 51 percent of the vote, beating her in her home county of Westchester to help pull off an upset victory. He was only the third Democrat elected in the district since WWI.
John Hall was helped in his election win by 1,200 volunteers who did door-to-door work and manned phone banks prior to the election. Some of Hall’s old rock ‘n roll fans turned out as well — a few amazed at the novelty of voting for a former rock star. Offered one New York blogger at “Fred Sez,”Hembeck.com, in the run up to the 2006 election: “Tomorrow, I get to do something I’ve never had a chance to do before: vote for someone who I first saw perform live on stage back in the mid-seventies, and then whose records I bought…” But there was also a separate $500,000 campaign by businessman Adam R. Rose that also contributed to Hall’s victory. Rose, an openly gay real-estate developer bankrolled the Majority Action group which ran negative advertisements against Hall’s opponent, Sue Kelly, because of her support for the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would ban same-sex marriage.
In his campaign, Hall also had the support of fellow musicians, some of whom helped raise money for him (see box below). Others gave concerts on his behalf. Singer Jackson Browne, for example, gave concerts for Hall. Browne did four benefit concerts for Hall in New York, June 2-4, 2006, which also included Dar Williams and Pete Seeger. On August 20, 2006, Browne again performed on behalf of Hall in New York city, along with Rosanne Cash, Steve Earle and Nanci Griffith.
“Rockers for Hall”
In the spring of 2006, musicians Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, and Bonnie Raitt, wrote a fundraising letter on behalf of John Hall’s bid for Congress. Here’s the text of that letter:
Our longtime friend, fellow No Nukes/MUSE artist, John Hall, whom you may also remember as a leader of Orleans (Dance With Me, Still the One) is running for Congress in the 19th District of upstate New York. John’s been a lifelong activist and right out of the starting gate, is emerging as a very welcome and successful candidate in debates and testing so far. He’s up against a very tough contender, the six-term incumbent Republican (and Tom DeLay crony) Rep. Sue Kelly, and of course needs to raise as much money as possible early in this primary race.
A bunch of us MUSE folks and other music industry friends have already lent our support and I’m writing to ask if you would consider contributing to help get John Hall elected. John is extremely smart, articulate, committed and in our minds, would absolutely bring a much needed fresh and clearheaded voice to our muddled political quagmire. Please spread the word if you agree and thank you so much for your support.
You can check out his positions and background at http://www.johnhallforcongress.com/, contribute on line at http://www.actblue.com/page/johnhallforcongress/ or send your contributions to “John Hall For Congress,” PO Box 377, Dover Plains, NY 12522.
As you may know the limit for personal contributions during the primary period is $2100 (MARCH 31st is the end of the 1st Quarter FEC filing period so act quickly please), and an additional $2100 may be sent to his General Election Escrow Account, which will be returned with interest if he does not win the nomination.
We think it’s fantastic that John has decided to set aside his music career for the time being and dedicate himself to politics for the better of us all.
Thank you for your support. We can make a difference,
Bonnie Raitt, Graham Nash and Jackson Browne
P.S. Any amount that you contribute will help. If 2000 people send $50 each, John’s campaign will receive a $100,000 boost. This will keep him in the game to carry the message of peace and diplomacy, economic justice, government and corporate accountability, healthcare for all, environmental protection and alternative energy.
Once in Congress, John Hall served as a progressive Democrat. He became a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and in his first term, among others things, he voted to raise the minimum wage and supported federal funding of stem cell research. He also became engaged in the daily work of serving his constituents on a variety of fronts, from veterans’ rights to help for public schools. Nor did Hall forget the issues in his home state that had brought him into politics, calling for closing the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, for example, and continuing that fight and others in Congress.
Nuke “Bailouts”In October 2007, during his first term, Hall also took part in a gathering of rock ‘n roll artists who came to town to lobby against federal loan guarantees for nuclear power plants. In his younger days in the late 1970s, in the wake of the nuclear plant accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, Hall had joined with rock musicians Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and Graham Nash and others to organize the “No Nukes” concerts at Madison Square Garden that helped stir public opposition to nuclear power at that time. In October 2007, these musicians and others reconvened to hold a press conference and lobby Congress to oppose the loan guarantee provisions in a pending energy bill. “Thirty years ago, we felt that this monster was dead,” Graham Nash told an Associated Press reporter. On Capitol Hill in Washington, the musicians warned that a Senate version of the energy bill contained the loan guarantees provisions, which they called a “virtual blank check from taxpayers” to help build more nuclear plants. They noted, however, that the bill as a whole contained some very good provisions, including those for renewable energy sources and improved energy efficiency standards. The musicians’ group had also launched a petition drive and a YouTube music video as part of their campaign. A number of environmental groups lent their support, along with dozens of other music artists and rock banks, including R.E.M., Ben Harper, Maroon 5, Pearl Jam, Patti Smith and Wynton Marsalis. Their petition drive had collected more than 120,000 signatures to present to Congress.
The Nuclear Energy Institute, meanwhile, dismissed the effort, saying nuclear energy was on the brink of a revival due to increased energy demands and concerns about global warming. “It’s almost as if they’re in a time capsule [from the 1970s] and they’ve been transported forward,” said Steve Kerekes of Nuclear Energy Institute.
But Reps. Edward Markey (D-MA) and John Hall said they expected that the musicians group would provide more positive lobbying muscle on the energy bill. The nuclear power industry continued to push Congress to expand federal loan guarantees for building new nuclear power plants.
Targeted in ’08
In the 2008 election campaign, meanwhile, John Hall drew numerous potential challengers for his re-election bid, including former Rep. Sue Kelly and Emily Pataki, daughter of former popular Republican Governor George Pataki. At one, point, Republicans had sought former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer to oppose Hall, but Fleischer declined. Hall had also been targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee in the fall election. A Republican newcomer, Kieran Lalor, became Hall’s opponent. On November 4, 2008, John Hall was re-elected, defeating Lalor with 58 percent of the vote.Hall’s Congressional website as of July 2009 noted that he opposed privatization of Social Security, and supported a swift and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq combined with renewed emphasis on diplomacy. He also backed more intensive efforts to produce more renewable energy, increased funding of veterans’ programs, universal health care, and full funding of No Child Left Behind. Hall then served on three House Committees — Transportation and Infrastructure, Veterans’ Affairs, and The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Hall is married to Pamela Bingham Hall, a graduate of Vassar College and an attorney who has worked as General Counsel to the Tennessee State Treasurer and as Tennessee Assistant State Attorney General.
In the fall of 2010, Hall faced a tough re-election bid in Republican challenger Nan Hayworth, who won the election by some 10,000 votes. Hall remained a viable candidate for a rematch in 2012, but in July 2011, he announced he would not run again. Hall said he wanted to spend time with his family and travel across the country with his band. Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney won the seat in November 2012, defeating Hayworth.
One final item on a musical note. During the national presidential campaign of 2008, Hall criticized Republican Presidential candidate John McCain for using the Orleans song “Still The One” at campaign rallies without seeking permission. Four years earlier as well, in late October 2004, Hall had criticized the campaign of President George W. Bush for using the same Orleans song at his campaign events without permission (Bush had a similar problem with a Tom Petty tune). In the case of Bush, formal cease-and-desist letters went out to the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney ’04 Campaign and the song was later dropped from the campaign’s playlist.
See also at this website the “Politics & Culture” page and the “Annals of Music” page for additional story choices in those categories. Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle
Date Posted: 10 July 2009
Last Update: 25 July 2016
Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack Doyle, “Orleans-To-Congress, 1972-2009,”
PopHistoryDig.com, July 10, 2009.
Sources, Links & Additional Information
“John Hall,” Wikipedia.com.
“An Endorsement for Congress,”(Westchester), New York Times, October 22, 2006.
Katrina vanden Heuvel, “He’s Still the One,” The Nation, Wednesday, October 25, 2006.
Andrew Miga, Associated Press, “Rockers Renew 1970s Anti-Nuke Theme,” USA Today, October 23, 2007.
Harvey Wasserman, “No-Nukers Sing a New Green Tune,” The Nation.com, November 9, 2007.
Margaret Menge, “Cornwall Lays KJ Pipeline Issue at Feet of Freshman Rep. John Hall,” Cornwall LocalOnline.com, Saturday, February 23, 2008.
Union of Concerned Scientists, “Massive Federal Loan Guarantees for New Nuclear Power Plants Would Put Taxpayers, Ratepayers at Risk,”March 4, 2009.
Abby Livingston, NBC / Domenico Montanaro, First Read, “Rep. To McCain: Stop Using My Song!,” MSNBC.com, Friday, June 13, 2008.