Since his tragic death in 1998, Phil Hartman has been mourned by fans as one of the greatest comic actors of his time. His performances, from Pee Wee’s Playhouse to Saturday Night Live and News Radio, displayed a comic genius far beyond his peers, and his film career was far too brief. Many like myself remember him best as two of television’s funniest character: Struggling lawyer Lionel Hutz and washed up actor Troy McClure, beloved residents of The Simpsons‘ Springfield.
What you may have not known about Phil Hartman – who’s name was actually spelled with two n’s before he got into show business – is that he had a career as an art designer when he was younger. Hartmann designed at least twenty-five album jackets for bands in the 70s, notably several for chart-toppers Poco and America.
(History: America’s Greatest Hits, by the way, is one of my least favorite Greatest Hits albums even though I like the band all right. Here’s why: George Martin started producing America’s albums in 1974, after they had already recorded three albums. Tracks from those three records – America, Homecoming and Hat Trick (the only really good America albums) – were remixed by Martin. It’s subtler than what he did with, say, “The Long and Winding Road”, but unnecessary nonetheless. It’s also sort of anathemic to the idea of a Greatest Hits album.)
I haven’t found a list of the complete Phil Hartmann covers – send us a link if you have. The Silver album was surprising because it came a few years later and was on the then-new label Arista. It’s also interesting because it’s credited to Hartmann and Goodman, so must have had a partner or started a firm. Phil Hartmann’s album covers are pretty cool, anyway, and Cantamos is pretty awesome. I’ll bet you have an album with a Phil Hartmann cover and you never knew it.
Today’s musical entertainment will be the original, pre-George Martin 45 of America’s “A Horse with no Name”: