This month’s taster obviously has to be this one with Christmas around the corner, it’s this 1970 release of this Christmas by one of my all time favourite artists Donny Hathaway. Born Donny Edward Hathaway but was also known as (donny pitts) on the 1st October 1945 in Chicago, he was brought up in the carr sq housing project of st louis by his grandmother. Donny graduated from vashon high school in 1963 from there he then went on to study music on a fine arts scholarship at the howard university in washington Dc. Here donny met close friend for life Roberta flack , donny was an amazing all round entertainer who could sing effortlessly jazz – soul – gospel and the blues, he was also a pianist, songwriter and arranger.
Donny’s early career started off in 1969 signing with Atlantic records, (ATCO) his first single also on the ATCO record label was the ghetto pt 1 which he co wrote with LeRoy Hutson, Donny worked as a songwriter but also still was a session musician and produced for Curtis Mayfield’s curtom records in Chicago. He also took part in projects working with the staple singers, Jerry butler , aretha Franklin, the impressions and many more. In 1972 he met up with Roberta Flack again and they made a duets album together the album was both a critical and commercial success the album included ” where is the love ” which become a huge success in both the R&B charts and top 5 in the pop charts .
Donny then followed this flurry of work, with some of contributions to soundtracks and some tv themes too.
Donny’ s music is faultless in my opion and made so many great songs leaving us with some very fond memories of him. Roberta flack wasn’t that far away because in 1978 they dueted together once more with ” the closer I get to you ” it topped the R&B charts and got to no 2 in the pop charts.
Still to this day Donny Hathaway’s most influential live album which he recorded in 1972 was termed by Daryl Easlea of the BBC as one of the best live albums ever recorded. And in 1973 he completed his last ever studio album titled extension of a man with some favourite songs of mine love love love and I’ll love you more than you’ll ever know it was probably best noted for this one someday we’ll all be free as a classic Ballard. The album also had a 6 minute symphonic styled instrumental titled I love the Lord, he heard my cry .
At this time also in 1973 Donny was struggling mentally and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was known not to regularly take his prescribed medication which would of helped him control the symptoms. Sadly on January 13 1979 Donny Hathaway’s body was found outside the Essex house hotel in New York it’s believed he committed suicide by jumping from his hotel room on the 15th floor, such a sad ending to this much loved and influential man of music.
According to Allison Keyes from NPR (national public radio) Donny Hathaway’s solo recordings are part of the foundation of American soul music. And have influenced many performers to name a few Alicia Keys – George Benson – Stevie Wonder and many more the late Amy Winehouse said that Donny Hathaway was her favourite artist of all time.
I think you will all agree Donny Hathaway is still very sadly missed but his music lives on!
Merry Christmas everyone, hope you have a happy and prosperous New year!