World of Slick Music – Donny Hathaway

Hi again folks!
Time again for another edition of some slick music. This time about one of the great soul singers from the 60:s/early 70:s. As the title says it’s Donny Hathaway and maybe you think his music isn’t very like slick if you’re familiar with it. Well maybe maybe not but as always my blog my rules thou today’s song is slick according to 1973.

An iconic pic of Donny.
He was born 1945 October 1 in Chicago, Illnois but grew up with his grandmother Martha Pitts in St Louis’ ghetto. Just many other in his generation and before and after he began performing in the local church with is grandmother who was an established gospel singer already at the age of 3. In 1963 he graduated from the Vashon High School. Later he began studying music of a fine arts scholarship at the Howard University, Washington D.C. where he was close classmate with songtress Roberta Flack. However he left school in 1967 before getting his degree due to job offers in the business. He did also have an jazz trio which included drummer Ric Powell on the university.
Donny and class mate Roberta Flack.
He moved to Chicago where he began working as songwriter/session player for Curtom Records. This was the label of another soul icon to be Curtis Mayfield. It was Curtis himself who recruited Donny to the label and he go work with Curtis himself and his, at that time band The Impressions, Aretha Franklin, Jerry Butler, The Staple Singers. It was just a matter of time before he would make it on his own and in 1969 he released his first single under his own name, a duet with June Conquest called I Thank You Baby”, see picture below.

The b-side of this single was another duet called “Just Another Reason”. In 1969 he was signed to Atco Records after beeing spotted for the label by the producer/musician King Curtis at a trade convention. For Atco he released his first single of note “The Ghetto, PT, 1”,  co-written by Howard roommate Leroy Hutson. The song didn’t become that big commercial success they though and hoped to be but on the other hand it’s concidered a soul classic today also one of the finest songs Donny ever wrote. The song has also been sampled by numerous hip hop artists. The song also set the standard for his debut album released in 1970 Everything is Everything,  see picture below.

Not only did he wrote all the songs he also made all the arrangements thou his former drummer Ric Powell helped him co-produce the album. Donny was a major talent both as musician and as songwritter as well as you might figure out. Anyway his second eponymous album came in 1971 and also recorded a duet with his former classmate and close friend Roberta Flack, a cover of the Carole King song “You Go a Friend”. This duet became a big commerical success and sparked  a full duet album with Donny and Roberta, picture below.

His third album is a live album and has achieved lots of cred from the critics calling it one of the best live albums ever recorded. It was like the best of two shows side one from The Troubadour, Hollywood and side two at The Bitter Bend, Greenwich Village, NYC. I know it’s way way before christmas but in 1970 Donny co-wrote and recorded one of most popular, at least in America, christmas songs called “This Christmas”.  It can be heard in dozens of movies and many many other artists has recorded the song. Now everything seemed to going straight forwards to the top for Donny from a artistic point of view but as private person he struggled a lot with depressions. At a time in 1972 he was hospitalized due to that. This condition began to affect his work and friendship with Roberta which began to crumble in 1973. Later this year he released his 4th and best album from which today’s song is taken from.

Donny’s 4th album.
After this album he kinda left the spotlight for some years due to his illness, only performing at small clubs. While beeing a student at the Howard University he met his wife Eulaulah and the got two daughters Lalah and Kenya. Now if you have followed this blog the name Lalah Hathaway might seem familiar, it should be cause i’ve written about her earlier in this blog. Then in 1977 he felt some better and began to patch up things with Roberta once again to record the duet “The Closer i Get To You”. Just like the previously duet this also became a smash hit and plans for making a second album together began to rise. Unfortunately these plans got a very tragic end when Donny was found dead after commiting suicide when jumping from the 15th floor on the Essex  Hotel House, New York City. His life and pain ended on January the 13th 1979 and this year he would have turned 70. Let’s keep his memory and legacy alive and never forget him.

As i mentioned earlier here Donny had a big time talent thou in an industry based on superficiality this talent was way to big for Donny to carry by himself. Depressions are demonic and nothing to take easy or ignore cause they can push anyone to cliff and make them jump cause they just don’t see any other way out to become free. Just like in this case with Donny. In the liner notes of his fourth and last album it says “Donny is no longer here, but the song “Someday We’ll All Be Free” gathers momentum as part of his legacy… Donny literally sat in the studio and cried when he heard the playback of his final mix. It’s pretty special when an artist can create something that wipes them out.” Edward Howard, lyricist of the song, adds, “It was a spiritual thing for me… What was going through my mind at the time was Donny, because Donny was a very troubled person. I hoped that at some point he would be released from all that he was going through. There was nothing I could do but write something that might be encouraging for him. He’s a good leader for young black men”.

Thou Donny left us a long time ago his legacy still lives on and has inspired dozens of artists/singers. Stories tells that a young Stevie Wonder used to sit at the front row at Donny’s concert in the early 1970:s and picked up a lot of inpsiration how to sing. He isn’t the only one who got inspired and influenced by Donny some others are George Benson, Peabo Bryson, Charlie Wilson. The song today is from his Donny’s forth album and is one of his most belowed and also of the most beautiful songs ever written and recorded according to me and it’s called “Someday We’ll Be Free”.
So enjoy your listening!!
Tags: #worldofslickmusic #donnyhathaway #marthapitts #robertaflack   #ricpowell #curtismayfield #theimpressions #arethafranklin #jerrybutler #thestaplesingers #juneconquer #kingcurtis #leroyhutson #caroleking  #eulaluahhathaway #lalahhathaway #kenyahathaway #edwardhoward #steviewonder #georgebenson #peabobryson #charliewilson

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