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Donny Hathaway Biography

Home > Music > H > Hathaway, Donny > Biography

Birth Name: Donny Edward Hathaway
Born: 1945/10/01
Birth Place: St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Died: 1979/01/13
Years Active: 1969–1979
Genres: Chicago Soul, Soul, Funk, Pop, R&B, Blues-rock

Donny Hathaway was born on October 1, 1945 in Chicago and was a soul singer and songwriter. Hathaway is known for his 1970 song, “The Ghetto, Part I” and his collaborations with Roberta Flack, which earned him a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for the duet in 1973. Hathaway was raised by his grandmother in a housing project in St Louis and began singing in his local church choir at the age of three. Hathaway loved music so much that he chose to study music in college and formed a jazz trio with drummer Ric Powell while still in college.

Hathaway, eager to get his music career off the ground, quit college and began working as songwriter, session musician and producer. He worked at Twinight Records in Chicago and worked with artists, such as The Unifics, The Staple Singers, Jerry Butler, Aretha Franklin, The Impressions, and Curtis Mayfield. Mayfiled saw talent in the young musician and offered him a position as a house producer at his label, Curtom Records. It was during this time that Hathaway began recording with Mayfield as a member of The Mayfield Singers. His debut single appeared in 1969 as a duet with June Conquest called “I Thank You Baby,” which met with positive reviews. Another duet quickly followed with the same singer, “Just Another Reason.” As a result, Hathaway generated label interest and signed with Atco Records. His first single for the label, “The Ghetto, Pt. 1” was a success and appeared on his critically acclaimed debut Album, “Everything Is Everything” in 1971.

Hathaway's second offering, “Donny Hathaway” was a collection of duets with Roberta Flack, which helped Hathaway cross over to the pop chart. The album met with high critical acclaim and commercial success. Hathaway also scored an international hit with “This Christmas;” the song became a holiday staple and has been covered by numerous artists, such as Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Chicago, Harry Connick, Jr., Dru Hill, *NSYNC, Gloria Estefan, Chris Brown, and Patti LaBelle. As Hathaway's success grew he collaborated more, and began to write songs and compose music for, other artists, in addition to soundtrack work for feature films. His final studio album, “Extension Of A Man” arrived in 1973. 1978 saw Hathaway collaborate with his old friend, Roberta Flack once again for a duet, “The Closer I Get To You” on her album “Blue Lights In The Basement.” The song topped was a hit on the R&B chart. Throughout his career, Hathaway suffered from severe bouts of depression. Towards the end of his life he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. During the 1970s, Hathaway's mental instability disrupted his life, and musical career, and resulted in several hospitalizations. In 1979, Hathaway's body was found outside the Essex House in New York City; he had committed suicide.