Archive for Donny Hathaway

Donny Hathaway-The Legend and The Legacy-Documentary

Posted in Controversy, Folklore, Music, Urban Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2009 by Richard James Clark II

Donny Hathaway

The story of Donny Hathaway is a tragic loss to the world of soul music since 1979 when he died at the age of 35 years old, however his legacy is still influential.

Life

Donny Hathaway was born in Chicago in the post 2nd world war era and grew up in a housing project with his grandmother. Hathaway began singing gospel music in a church choir along with his grandmother (a professional gospel singer) at the age of 3.

Hathaway while growing up also played the ukulele and being fascinated by Liberace studied the piano as a child. While at high school Hathaway was known as a piano prodigy, which eventually earned him a fine-arts scholarship to Howard University in 1964. He attended Howard University for three years and performed with The Ric Powel Trio, a jazz trio. Hathaway left Howard University without a degree due to the huge amount of job offers in music in 1967.

Career

Hathaway career started as a songwriter, session musician and producer for a local label in his hometown Chicago called Twinight Records, he later did arrangements for many groups including The Unifics and participated in projects by The Staple Singers (a well known gospel group) Jerry Butler and Aretha Franklin, as well with Curtis Mayfield. After working with Curtis, Donny became a “house producer” for Mayfield’s label, Curtom Records, he started recording there as a member of The Mayfield Singers. He recorded his first single under his own name in 1969, a duet with singer June Conquest called “I Thank You Baby”.

From this success Hathaway signed a deal with Atco records and released the famous ‘The Ghetto Part 1’ this song was a highlight of the critically acclaimed 1970 album Everything is Everything, his second album the self titled Donny Hathaway album was also well received.

Hathaway’s main success song wise is the Christmas standard, “This Christmas.” The song, released in 1970, has become a holiday staple and is often used in movies, television and advertising. Numerous artists have covered “This Christmas” across diverse musical genres.

In 1972 Hathaway would have two commercial and critically acclaimed successful albums. The ‘Live’ album and then the famous duets album with another former Howard University musical prodigy ‘Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’ which contained the huge hit Where Is The Love written by Ralph McDonald (who would later write Just The Two OF Us for Bill Withers). The album was mainly a covers album with Carole King’s ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ and showcased some of Hathaway’s own writing.

The effects of Hathaway’s melancholia also drove a wedge into Flack and Hathaway’s friendship; they did not reconcile for several years, and did not release additional music until the 1978 release of “The Closer I Get To You”. The single became a popular and R&B hit, and Flack and Hathaway resumed studio recording to compose a second album of duets thereafter, which he never finished, though these songs were released on a Roberta Flack album in 1979.

Up until his death Donny would work on numerous projects but suffered from severe bouts of depression. It was found that he was suffering from E and was known to have taken up to 14 pills two to three times per day to control this disease. This condition wreaked havoc on his life (his marriage separated) and required several hospitalisations.

Legacy

Hathaway legacy has been influential to a many artists, the LIVE album especially for new R&B Singer/Songwriters such as Brian Mc Knight, Alicia Keys, India Arie and Frank McComb, within his own family Hathaway’s daughter Lalah Hathaway has enjoyed a successful solo career. While his other daughter Kenya is one of the three backing vocalists on the hit TV program American Idol.

American Idol has also helped Hathaway back catalog be recognized again by the talent of Ruben Studdard and in the 2006 the runner-up Elliott Yamin cited him as an influence and wanted the spotlight back on Hathaway due to this sales of A Donny Hathaway Collection shot all the way up to twenty-third on the Amazon.com CD sales chart, with some commentators citing the performance as their reason for buying Hathaway’s CD

Below is a Five Part Documentary.

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Video 2

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Video 5