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Monday, July 31, 2006

Donny Hathaway

After writing that last post on William Bell, I couldn’t help but add a note about one of favorite voices in soul music, Donny Hathaway. A little bit about him; Hathaway was born into a gospel household (his grandmother who raised him was the talented Martha Crumwell) and began singing at the age of three. Working with Curtis Mayfield and Roberta Flack, Hathaway’s career started out promisingly enough, but his often erratic behavior at times threatened his chances of making a name for himself. Diagnosed in 1973 with paranoid schizophrenia, other artists often noticed his odd behavior, and found him difficult to work with. Not long after releasing the incredibly popular duet, “The Closer I Get to You” with Flack, Hathaway was found dead on the sidewalk beneath his 15th floor room in 1979. He was 33.

Although he was a writer, arranger, producer and talented pianist, Hathaway’s true talent lies in his vocals. At once incredibly powerful and soft, Hathaway’s voice is able to carry songs nearly on its own, with little need for instrumental accompaniment. Few vocalists are so gifted. “For All We Know” and “A Song for You” rely little on Hathaway’s piano playing, yet is as lush and stirring as any great soul standard.

(For more information on Donny Hathaway, check out this essay, which reveals details on some lesser-known aspects of his life. After reading it, it made me hear his songs in a different light, and made me wonder if his personal turmoil and mental instability were the forces that lent the great intensity to his singing.)

p.s. I really wanted to put up “Jealous Guy,” my favorite Hathaway song, but since it’s already been posted on other sites, and is on the Soul-Sides compilation that I love so much, I’ll have to refrain, but definitely dig that one up if you’re a Hathaway fan. Oh, I'll also be checking out Lalah Hathaway (his daughter) this Wednesday at the Hollywood bowl. I'll give an update on her performance later for those who might be curious.

Update: So I was SUPPOSED to see Lalah Hathaway last night at the Hollywood Bowl, but SOMEONE was hella late to pick me up, and we missed her performance. I did check out some of her music online and can't say I'm much of a fan, she has too much of that smooth jazz sound that I just cannot stand, although her voice is nice. Sorry for the non-update.

[MP3] Donny Hathaway :: For All We Know
[MP3] Donny Hathaway :: A Song For You

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