Donny Hathaway was an American singer-songwriter who achieved critical acclaim for his soulful voice and distinctive songwriting. His career spanned over four decades, beginning in the 1960s with his hit cover of “This Christmas Day” before releasing his first album in 1968.
Donny Hathaway was an American soul singer-songwriter, best known for his hit song A Song for You. He also had a successful career in the film industry.
Donny Hathaway, a silky, gospel-inflected romantic crooner who was equally at home singing furious protest songs, was one of the brightest new voices in soul music at the beginning of the 1970s. Hathaway’s biggest commercial success came as Roberta Flack’s go-to duet partner, but he’ll also be remembered for the terrible circumstances surrounding his death — an apparent suicide at the age of 33. Hathaway was born in Chicago on October 1, 1945, but relocated to St. Louis as a child, where he started singing in church with his grandmother at the tender age of three. He started playing the piano at an early age, and by the time he graduated from high school, he had earned a full-ride fine arts scholarship at Howard University to study music in 1964. He was a member of the Ric Powell Trio, a cocktail jazz group, while in college, and left after three years to seek employment possibilities in the record business.
Hathaway began her career as a producer, arranger, composer, and session pianist/keyboardist behind the scenes. He backed up Aretha Franklin, Jerry Butler, and the Staple Singers, among others, and was a member of the Mayfield Singers, a studio backup band who backed up Curtis Mayfield’s Impressions. Hathaway quickly rose through the ranks at Mayfield’s Curtom label, cutting his first song, “I Thank You Baby,” a duet with June Conquest, in 1969. He then signed with Atco as a solo artist, releasing his first single, “The Ghetto, Pt. 1,” near the end of the year. Despite failing to peak in the Top 20, “The Ghetto” is regarded as a classic soul message song that has been sampled by a slew of hip-hop artists. Everything Is Everything, Hathaway’s critically praised first album, was released in early 1970, and “The Ghetto” established the tone. In 1971, he released his self-titled second album and recorded a duet with former Howard classmate Roberta Flack, covering Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” The song was a big hit, reaching the Top Ten on the R&B charts, and it sparked a full album of duets, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, in 1972. “Where Is the Love?” was a gentle, romantic song that topped the R&B charts, reached the Top Five on the mainstream charts, received a Grammy, and the accompanying album went gold.
Hathaway also dabbled with soundtrack work in 1972, recording the title song for the television show Maude and scoring the film Come Back Charleston Blue. He was, however, suffering severe episodes of depression, which forced him to be hospitalized on occasion, in the middle of his growing popularity. His mood fluctuations had an impact on his relationship with Flack, which started to fall apart in 1973. That year, Hathaway produced one more album, the grandiose Extension of a Man, before withdrawing from the limelight and performing exclusively in tiny venues for the following several years. In 1977, Hathaway and Flack patched things up and briefly left the hospital to record another duet for her Blue Lights in the Basement album, “The Closer I Get to You.” The song was a hit, reaching number two on the mainstream charts and earning the duo’s second R&B number one in 1978. When Hathaway was discovered dead on the pavement below his 15th-floor window at New York’s Essex House on January 13, 1979, he was working on a second record of duets. Investigators ruled Hathaway’s death a suicide since the glass had been carefully removed from the window and there were no indications of struggle; his friends were perplexed, especially because his career had just begun to take up again, and Flack was heartbroken. Both of the finished duets, “Back Together Again” and “You Are My Heaven,” were posthumous successes after Roberta Flack’s death in 1980. Lalah Hathaway, Hathaway’s daughter, debuted as a solo artist in 1990.
Donny Hathaway was a soul singer and songwriter. He is known for his hits This Christmas and A Song For You. His work has been noted as having a distinctive sound that combines jazz, gospel, funk, and blues. Reference: donny hathaway documentary.
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