Donny Hathaway – 1971 – Donny Hathaway
Get under the influence of Donny Hathaway, soul music high priest. Soul music at its most liberating.
Essential listening. Once it grows on you, you’d be thankful for your patience. The music is so uplifting, like the best of 70s soul music. The album’s masterful blend of spiritual soul tracks that plumb the depths of Donny’s dark soul, done with a level of sophistication that you won’t hear in other soul albums from the time!
1 Giving Up (6:24)
2 Song for You (5:27)
3 Little Girl (4:47)
4 He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (5:55)
5 Magnificent Sanctuary Band (4:24)
6 She Is My Lady (5:33)
7 I Believe in Music (3:38)
8 Take a Love Song (4:53)
9 Put Your Hand in the Hand (3:49)
10 Be There (bonus) (3:05)
11 This Christmas (bonus) (3:50)
BiographyAn exceptional soul singer from Chicago, Donny Hathaway’s life ended early, but he left behind a legacy of classic music. He started singing and playing piano as a young child, and eventually attended Howard University on a music scholarship. In the mid-sixties, he played with a jazz group called the Ric Powell Trio, and was soon producing and arranging for many other acts. He also worked as a session musician, playing keys with the Staple Singers and Aretha Frankin among others. That led to him joining the Mayfield Singers, backing up Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions. In 1969, he got a deal with ATCO and released his debut solo single “The Ghetto Pt. 1.” His first full-length, the timeless Everything Is Everything came out the following year, establishing Hathaway as a visionary artist able to seamlessly blend funk, gospel, and social awareness in his music. His second album, 1971’s Donny Hathaway was a much more somber affair, with minimalist, piano-driven cover songs. On it, he hooked up with Roberta Flack for a duet version of “YouÂ’ve Got A Friend.” The track became a hit and led to an entire album of duets between the two, released the following year. From that LP came “Where Is the Love,” a huge hit single that won a Grammy and topped the charts. While his career was at an all-time high, Hathaway was gripped by severe depression, so much so that he had to be periodically hospitalized. His third and final studio album Extension Of A Man came out in 1973, after which he kept a low profile, performing infrequently and then only in small venues. Several years later he reconnected with Roberta Flack and scored another huge hit with “The Closer I Get To You,” but it would be his final one. In January of 1979 he committed suicide by jumping out a 15-story window in New York City. Although his career was short-lived, Donny Hathaway made a huge impact on R&B and popular music in general, dozens of hip-hop artists have since sampled his records, reconfiguring his tracks into numerous rap hits.
Donny Hathaway was a star that burned brightly and too quickly was extinguished, but his legacy was a set of albums which stand comparison with the Soul superstars of the era. His first album was a classic, and comtained an instrumental giant “The Ghetto” On this, his second album from 1971, Donny Hathaway showcases his great voice and the stand out tracks for me are the big ballads – He Ain’t Heavy.., A Song For You and She Is My Lady. There is no “The Ghetto” soundalike here, just great songs beautifully arranged and performed, and the gospel influence is very evident here, probably more than on any of his other albums. This is a real Soul album therefore. With the addition of a couple of bonus tracks, including the great “This Christmas”, this is an album for fans of Soul. It would also serve for those fans of more recent R & B, as Donny was an undoubted influence on so many contemporary artists like India Arie, Alicia Keys, John Legend and Leela James.
Many of us will never have heard of Donny Hathaway. He was of a time when African American musicians were particularly inspired and wonderfully creative at the height of optimism for change in the early 70’s (Stevie, Marvin, Isley Bros, Staple Singers, Al Green the whole bit). It is only because my mother loved Roberta Flack that I knew he existed. I also found out that he also played keyboards on a few Aretha tracks. So when I chanced upon this disc in a discount store I took a chance. Top choice. The man’s voice is silk and his arrangement on the cover of “He ain’t heavy..” makes the song his own. There is simply no other voice like Donny’s. The pace of the disc is intense if not unique, there is a real mixture of gospel and contemporary influences, cosy up to the voice, composition and musical talents of Donny. For all the romantics in the world go straight to “Take a love song” (sing it in the air) and for the best Christmas song ever it has to be “This Christmas” then stay on for “Be there”. I have all the other Donny’s now and can’t get through a day without listening to him.