by Jeff Meier (FB: Jeff.Meier.90)
Today is the 75th birthday of the late Donny Hathaway, who we are honoring here at Good Black News with our 75-song Spotify salute – “Someday We’ll All Be Free – The Donny Hathaway Master Collection”.
In this chaotic time, is there a more prescient song/collective societal wish than Donny’s iconic composition, “Someday We’ll All Be Free”?
Chances are, the casual soul music fan probably knows Donny Hathaway for one of three things: 1) his hit duets with Roberta Flack, including “Where Is the Love” and “The Closer I Get to You”; 2) his rendition of the Leon Russell classic “A Song For You” – which, though recorded by artists ranging from The Carpenters to Ray Charles to Celine Dion to The Temptations, has become the most iconic version of that iconic song (with nearly 50 million plays on Spotify!); or 3) his own holiday tune “This Christmas” (co-written with Nadine McKinnor), which in the recent decades has made the rare successful transition into the canon of evergreen Christmas standards – recorded by everyone from country artist Vince Gill to Gloria Estefan to Chris Brown – with over 160 million Spotify plays alone among the various versions.
But here’s a chance to dive deeper into Hathaway’s career – one that was brief, but highly influential, spanning from the very late ‘60s to his death in the late ‘70s. He only released three solo studio albums, in addition to his noted duets with Roberta Flack, and his iconic live performances.
Nevertheless, his rich, emotionally expressive vocal style can be heard in generations of soul singers, ranging from Stevie Wonder to Amy Winehouse, his songwriting proved to be durable and relevant decades later, and his orchestrations and arrangements inspired many soul and jazz producers.
We compiled our playlist primarily chronologically. And, we included his first two albums, and his iconic Live album in their entirety, in order. Surprisingly, his third album, the masterpiece Extensions of a Man, is not currently on Spotify – but we’ve been able to reconstruct most of it from hits collections, unfortunately missing out on his transfixing instrumental opus “I Love the Lord; He Heard My Cry.”
Surrounding these main works are a bunch of delicious extras. First, we’ve included nearly all of his recordings with his Howard University buddy Roberta Flack, who actually started recording Hathaway’s songs on her first two albums, before they entertained the idea of collaborating on duets.
In addition to Live – considered one of the finest R&B concert albums of all time – subsequent years have yielded many additional live tracks where we get a further peak at his interpretive skills on such songs as The Beatles’ “Yesterday” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superwoman.” Although a gifted songwriter, Hathaway was also unafraid to take someone else’s track and make it definitively his own.
We’ve included some unreleased studio tracks that have only surfaced in the past decade – all of them solidly produced, and musically interesting, demonstrating the a prodigy that blended all sorts of musical styles. \The country-influenced track titled “A Lot of Soul” was made during an era when Hathaway had been doing some production/arrangements on, of all things, a Willie Nelson record.
But, there’s also the 20 minute “Zyxygy Concerto,” a classical piece with full orchestra that hints where Hathaway’s musical ambitions may have taken him had he lived. Listeners to contemporary jazz/classical artists like Kamasi Washington will enjoy delving into this 1973 epic.
Hathaway also created the score for the Blaxploitation-era crime movie Come Back Charleston Blue (based on a Chester Himes novel), from which the songs “Little Ghetto Boy” and the title track (a duet with Margie Joseph) come.
Early in our playlist, we’ve included a few compositions/productions for others. Before striking out on his solo career, Hathaway had been a staff writer/producer for Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records – and had written and produced many tracks for others, including “Gone Away” for The Impressions (a stellar version by Roberta Flack also is on Spotify – search for it!).
Finally, we’ve included three songs from his accomplished daughter Lalah Hathaway, whose warm, deep lustrous vocals unmistakably mark her as Donny’s child. She has sparingly covered her father’s material throughout her career, although in the summer of 2019, she and her younger sister Kenya performed a beautiful outdoor summer concert at Lincoln Center dedicated to their dad’s work.
Perhaps (said hopefully), a Natalie Cole “Unforgettable”-styled release is somewhere in her/their future, bringing renewed attention to the profound and timeless musical legacy of Donny Hathaway from a voice uniquely qualified to deliver it.
Listening to Donny Hathaway takes you into an immersive zone – we hope you’ll find a day to relax, reflect and absorb the sounds of this musical master, as the world celebrates the 75th year of his birth.
Original article source: https://goodblacknews.org/2020/10/01/music-someday-well-all-be-free-75-song-tribute-to-late-soul-legend-donny-hathaway-on-his-75th-listen/ | Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council