Donny Edward Hathaway was an American soul singer, keyboardist, songwriter, backup singer, and producer. Rolling Stone called him a “soul legend.” Some of his most famous songs are “The Ghetto”, “This Christmas”, “Someday We'll All Be Free”, and “Little Ghetto Boy”.
Hathaway is also known for his versions of “A Song for You,” “For All We Know,” and “I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know,” as well as “Where Is the Love” and “The Closer I Get to You,” which he recorded with Roberta Flack.
He is on the St. Louis Walk of Fame and has won one of the four Grammy Awards he was nominated for. Hathaway was also given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award after her death in 2019. David Kleijwegt, a Dutch director, made a documentary called Mister Soul: A Story About Donny Hathaway. It will be shown for the first time on January 28, 2020, at the International Film Festival Rotterdam.
Who is Donny Hathaway?
Drusella Huntley's son Hathaway was born in Chicago, Illinois. His grandma, Martha Pitts, also known as Martha Crumwell, raised him in the Carr Square housing project in St. Louis, Missouri. At the age of three, Hathaway started playing the piano and singing in church choirs with his grandmother, who was a skilled gospel singer.
In 1963, he got his diploma from Vashon High School. Hathaway then went to Howard University in Washington, D.C. on a fine arts grant to study music. There, he met Roberta Flack. He also joined the Alpha Phi Alpha club at Howard. Hathaway started a jazz trio with drummer Ric Powell while he was there, but in 1967, just before he finished his degree, Donny left Howard to take a job in the music business.
How Did Donny Hathaway?
In 1979, work was being done on a new record of duets. Hathaway started recording with players and producers Eric Mercury and James Mtume on January 13. Each person said that Hathaway was singing well, but he started acting strangely and seemed to be nervous and crazy.
Mtume says that Hathaway told him that white people were trying to kill him and had hooked up his brain to a machine to steal his songs and voice. Mercury said that Hathaway's behavior made him decide that the recording session could not go on, so he ended it and sent everyone home.
Hours later, Hathaway's body was found on the ground below the window of his 15th-floor room at the Essex House Hotel in New York City. People said that he had jumped off his window. Investigators decided that Hathaway's death was a suicide because the window glass had been carefully taken out and there were no signs of a fight.
Flack was heartbroken, and after his death, she put the few duet tracks they had finished on her next record, Roberta Flack Featuring Donny Hathaway. Mercury says that Hathaway's last track was “You Are My Heaven,” which was on that album. Mercury wrote that song with Stevie Wonder.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson led the funeral for Hathaway. Later in 1979, the Whispers cut “Song for Donny” as a tribute song for their album of the same name. On the R&B list, the song got to No. 21. In the same year, they covered Hathaway's song “This Christmas,” which was on their Christmas record Happy Holidays to You.