Donny Hathaway Biography
Donny Hathaway (October 1, 1945 – January 13, 1979) was an American soul musician.
Hathaway was born in Chicago, but grew up in St. Louis.
He and his wife, Eulaulah, had two daughters, Lalah and Kenya.
He began singing in a church choir with his grandmother at the age of 3. He also began playing piano as a child, and by the time he was a teenager, his prowess at the piano earned him a fine arts scholarship to Howard University in 1964. He attended the university for three years, and performed with a jazz trio, The Ric Powell Trio. Ultimately, Hathaway was offered so much industry work that he left before graduating.
At first, Hathaway worked as songwriter, session musician and producer. He participated in projects by The Staple Singers, Jerry Butler and Aretha Franklin, as well as with Curtis Mayfield. After becoming a "house producer" at Mayfield's label, Curtom Records, he recorded his first single in 1969, a duet with singer June Conquest called "I Thank You Baby".
Hathaway then signed to Atco Records, which released his first single of note, "The Ghetto, Pt. 1". His debut LP was Everything Is Everything (1970), which was critically acclaimed. His second album, Donny Hathaway, was a major hit. He also recorded an album of duets with former Howard University classmate and label mate Roberta Flack. The album was both a critical and commercial success, including the Ralph MacDonald-penned track "Where Is The Love?", which proved to be not only an R&B hit, but also went Top Five on the pop charts. . The album also included a number of other covers, including versions Carole King's "You've Got a Friend" and "Baby I Love You", originally a hit for Aretha Franklin.
Hathaway followed this flurry of work with some contributions to soundtracks, along with his recording of the theme song to the TV series Maude. Several years after their first collaboration, Hathaway renewed his collaboration with Flack and recorded several additional tracks, including the hit "The Closer I Get to You" (1978).
In the mid-1970s he also produced albums for other artists including Cold Blood, where he expanded the musical range of lead singer Lydia Pense.
At the height of his career, Hathaway began to suffer from severe bouts of depression. The illness wreaked havoc on his life, requiring several hospitalizations. The effects of Hathaway's depression also drove a wedge into Flack and Hathaway's friendship; they did not reconcile for several years, and did not release additional music until the 1978 release of "The Closer I Get To You". The single became a pop and R&B hit, and Flack and Hathaway returned to the studios to record a second album of duets.
On January 13, 1979, Hathaway was found dead on the sidewalk in front of the Essex House in New York City, where he had been living. His body showed no signs of struggle, and the glass from the window in Hathaway's room had been removed; investigators determined Hathaway had committed suicide. Friends, fans, and the media were mystified at his death, since his career and his partnership with Flack were on an upswing. Flack was devastated by his death, and included the few duet tracks they had finished on her next album.