Singer-songwriter, Gabriel S. Hardeman, best-known for co-writing R&B star Stephanie Mills’ 1987 #1 hit “I Feel Good All Over” and Teddy Pendergrass’ “Truly Blessed”, died Saturday, June 16th in the Philadelphia area from complications of interstitial fibrosis. He was 68 years old. He was diagnosed with the illness in May 2000 but with medication functioned well until 2005 when he started intermittently using a portable oxygen tank. His condition improved after a 2009 single lung transplant at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital but he recently began contacting friends to say that his prognosis was grim and to say goodbye.
Hardeman kicked off his music career by singing and playing piano at his dad’s church. His parents moved the family up north from Atlanta for better financial opportunities when he was still a youth. They settled in Harrisburg, PA before finally moving to Philadelphia where Hardeman graduated from William Penn High School.
After graduation, he briefly joined the R&B band, the El Dantes, before going off to West Virginia State College as a physical education major. The group started performing throughout the year but he’d lose his best singers as they graduated from high school, so he decided to create an independent group and named it The Delegation in 1973. “We were doing then what folks like Kirk Franklin are doing now,” he told the Inquirer. “We would go into these conservative churches, and they would tell us we were doing the devil’s music.” The group signed to Savoy Records where they recorded hit albums such as the self-titled LP that featured the radio hit “Feels Like Fire” and earned a Grammy Award nomination.
Hardeman became disenchanted with the politics of the gospel world and retired from recording for a while. However, he and his wife, Annette Hardeman (from the disco era trio, First Choice, best known for “Dr. Love”) began to write songs together. They wrote Stephanie Mills’ #1 R&B hit “I Feel Good All Over”, Mikki Howard’s #2 R&B smash “Love Under New Management” and a “This is the Last Time” and “Truly Blessed” for Teddy Pendergrass. They also did backing vocal sessions for R&B acts such as Patti Labelle, Phil Perry and Phyllis Hyman.
Eventually, the industry demand for them to write more salacious R&B music conflicted with their faith and they devoted themselves to writing and producing gospel music. Aside from writing for gospel acts such as Edwin Hawkins and the Wilmington-Chester Mass Choir, Hardeman recorded his own albums for the Messiah and Birthright labels before making a comeback with the Stellar Award nominated, “To the Chief Musician”, CD in 2001.
Hardeman is survived by his wife, Annette Hardeman, and their son, Michael.