Donny Hathaway

After signing with Atlantic Records in 1969, Donny Hathaway breathed new life into soul music as it entered a new decade. Born in Chicago in 1945, Hathaway was raised by his grandmother, a gospel singer, in St. Louis. He started playing piano at the age of three and studied music at Howard University on a fine arts scholarship. He left Howard before graduating to pursue job offers in the music business and was employed by Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records in Chicago. He was signed to the Atco subsidiary of Atlantic in 1969 and recorded his first single, “The Ghetto, pt. 1.” The following year his debut album, Everything Is Everything, was released to critical acclaim. His 1972 collaboration, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, consisted primarily of covers but sold over 1 million copies and broke the artist onto the pop charts. His final album, Extension of a Man, was released the following year and Hathaway essentially retired from studio recording due to depression. In 1978, Hathaway returned to the charts with “The Closer I Get to You,” a duet with Roberta Flack. The two planned another album of duets and recording began in 1979, but it was aborted due to Hathaway’s paranoia and melancholy. On January 13, 1979 Hathaway committed suicide in New York City. Posthumously, Roberta Flack released the few songs they had recorded on her Roberta Flack Featuring Donny Hathaway album, and other tributes emerged.