Donny Edward Hathaway (October 1, 1945 – January 13, 1979) the son of Drusella Huntley, was born in Chicago but raised with his grandmother, Martha Pitts, also known as Martha Crumwell, in the Carr Square housing project of St. Louis. Hathaway began singing in a church choir with his grandmother, a professional gospel singer, at the age of three. He graduated from Vashon High School in 1963. Donny Hathaway worked as songwriter, session musician and producer. Working first at Chicago’s Curtom Records, he later did the arrangements for hits by the Unifics (“Court of Love” and “The Beginning of My End”) and took part in projects by the Staple Singers, Jerry Butler, Aretha Franklin, the Impressions and Curtis Mayfield. After becoming a “house producer” for Mayfield’s label, Curtom Records, he started recording there. He recorded his first single under his own name in 1969.
Perhaps Hathaway’s most influential recording is his 1972 album, Live, which has been termed “one of the best live albums ever recorded” by Daryl Easlea of the BBC. The album can also be found on the British online music and culture magazine The Quietus’ list of “40 Favourite Live Albums”. It was recorded at two concerts: side one at The Troubadour in Hollywood, and side two at the The Bitter End in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. Donny Hathaway is also known as the co-composer and performer of the Christmas standard, “This Christmas”. The song, released in 1970, has become a holiday staple and is often used in movies, television and advertising.
His final studio album, Extension of a Man came out in 1973 with two tracks, “Love Love Love” and “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” reaching both the pop and R&B charts. However, it was probably best noted for his classic ballad, “Someday We’ll All Be Free”. He returned to the charts in 1978 after again teaming up with Roberta Flack for a duet, “The Closer I Get to You” on her album, Blue Lights in the Basement. The song topped the R&B chart and just missed the number 1 spot on the Hot 100 (reaching #2). Atlantic then put out another solo single, “You Were Meant For Me” shortly before his sudden death.