The Legend of Soul: Donny Hathaway

                         Donny Edward Hathaway, also known as Donny Pitts, was Born October 1, 1945 in Chicago, Illinois.                      He was known for being an American Soul Singer, Keyboardist, Songwriter, Arranger, and a Soul Legend.

Early Life

Donny Hathaway was the son of Drusella Huntley, raised by his grandmother, Martha Pitts in the Carr Square Housing Project of St. Louis, Missouri. He began singing at the age of three and studied piano at this time as well, He graduated from Vashon High School in 1963 to then study music on a fine arts scholarships at Howard university in Washington, D.C. where he met Roberta Flack. While at Howard, he formed a jazz trio with drummer Ric Powell but left before completing his degree because of job offers.

Career

Hathaway worked as a songwriter, session musician, and producer for Curtis Mayfield’s Custom Records in Chicago. After becoming a “house producer” at Curtom, he started recording there. In 1969, Donny Hathaway signed to Atco Records after being potted by producer/musician King Curtis to later release hit, “The Ghetto, Pt. 1”. The track appeared the following year on his critically acclaimed debut LP, Everything is Everything, which he co-produced with Ric Powell while also arranging all the cuts. Perhaps his most influential album is his 1972 album, Live recorded by Daryl Easlea of the BBC. The love for Hathaway continued to grow with music like “This Christmas”, “Baby I Love You”, and “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”. His final studio album, Extension of a Man in 1973, included both “Love, Love, Love” and “Someday We’ll All Be Free” reaching both Pop and R&B Charts. Before his sudden death in 1979, “The Closer I Get to You” with Roberta Flack topped the Hot 100 at Number 2.
Donny Hathaway: LIVE
1972 Album
Never My Love: The Anthology
2013 Album
Extension of A Man
1973 Album
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Lost Too Soon

Donny Hathaway suffered from severe depression and was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. After his diagnosis he began improving, however, his wife noticed how her husband became less than diligent about his daily regimen. From 1973 to 1977, Hathaway’s mental stability gradually decreased and eventually caused several hospitalizations. On January 13, 1979, Hathaway had just concluded a wonderful session with producers/musicians Eric Mercury and James Mtume Hathaway was found on the pavement below his fifteenth floor room in New York City’s Essex House Hotel. He is survived by his wife, Eulaulah and children Lalah, Kenya, and Donnita.

Contemporaries

Donny Hathaway was liked in circles along with Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye.

Roberta Flack

Roberta Cleopatra Flack is an American singer from Black Mountain, North Carolina. She is known for her Number 1 Singles “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (1969), “Killing Me Softly With His Song” (1973), and “The Closer I Get to You” (1977).

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Louise Franklin was an American singer, songwriter, and pianist. Known as THEE “Queen of Soul” she is one of the world’s best-selling music artists. With timeless songs some of her hits include: “Respect” (1967), “Rock Steady” (1972), “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (1971), and “Something He Can Feel” (1976).

Curtis Mayfield

Curtis Mayfield was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and record producer from Chicago Illinois. A lot of his work is influential through the lens of political conscious African-American Music. Songs like “Move On Up” (1970), “People Get Ready” (1965), “Freddie’s Dead” (1972), and “Choice of Colors” (1969), all express the emotions of the Black Community during the late 60s and early 70s.

Stevie Wonder

Stevland Hardaway Morris, known as Stevie Wonder was born in Saginaw, Michigan. He is an American Singer, Songwriter, and Musician whose music ranges the genres of blues, pop, soul, gospel, funk, and jazz. He is a musical pioneer and an influential voice in the timeless sound in songs like “Isn’t She Lovely” (1976), “Superstition” (1972), “Ribbon In The Sky” (1982), and “All I Do” (1980).

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye was an American singer and songwriter. Gaining the titles “Prince of Motown” and “Prince of Soul” he helped to shape the sound of Motown in the 1960s. With music “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (1976), “Sexual Healing” (1994), and “Let’s Get It On” (1973) still hitting the charts and billboards Marvin Gaye continues to leave a legacy of success of success.

Legacy

Hathaway’s solo recordings are part of the foundation of American Soul Music” and have influenced performers from R&B singers Alicia Keys and Aaliyah to rapper Common and singer-guitarist George Benson. Donny Hathaway was named the forty-ninth greatest singer of all time in a 2010 list published by Rolling Stone. Hathaway was a synthesizer of limitless cultural aspiration who “conveyed a sense of roots” and was never content with the class-bound pop fantasies of Ashford and Simpson, but mused that ” idealistic credulousness of a project that incorporated pop, jazz, a little blues, lots of gospel, and the conservatory into an all-over black style is linked to the fluidity that marks much of his work. 

Awards

19666 – GRAMMY Award Winner for Best Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals “Where is The Love”
2019 – GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award 

Bibliography:

           “Donny Hathaway Biography, Songs, & Albums.” AllMusic, https://www.allmusic.com/artist/donny-hathaway-mn0000182360/biography.
Edwards, Gavin. “Donny Hathaway’s Daughter Lalah Is Finally Ready to Honor Him in Concert.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 July 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/22/arts/music/donny-hathaway-lalah-hathaway.html.
Goodman, George. “Donny Hathaway, 33, Pop and Blues Singer, Dead in Hotel Plunge.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Jan. 1979, https://www.nytimes.com/1979/01/15/archives/donny-hathaway-33-pop-and-blues-singer-dead-in-hotel-plunge-hit.html.
Keyes, Allison. “Donny Hathaway: Neglected Heart of Soul.” NPR, NPR, 21 June 2010, https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127935255.

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