Much respect to the well-loved Donny Hathaway, the great gospel-inspired singer and songwriter, as well as pianist, producer and arranger. His music covered soul, gospel, pop, blues, jazz, Christmas songs, ballads, funk and even Latin, in a nice mix of both originals and covers.
Born in Chicago to a gospel-singing family, he grew up in St. Louis. He started singing in church at age 3 and was playing piano young as well. He studied music at Howard University, where he also played in a jazz trio with Ric Powell and rolled with Roberta Flack and Leroy Hutson. He started working as a session musician for folks like Jerry Butler, The Impressions, Aretha Franklin, Staple Singers, Phil Upchurch and Curtis Mayfield. In the late '60s he started working as both a producer and recording artist for Mayfield's Curtom label.
He signed to Atco in '69 and had a hit with "The Ghetto". He cut duets with Flack that became hugely successful. He started scoring for films and TV (the Maude theme song!). He produced the awesome funk-rock band Cold Blood and his own Live album from '72 was a highlight of his catalogue.
In '73 he released Extension Of A Man but his bipolar disorder and schizophrenia greatly effected his career and he largely stayed out of the limelight. He reunited with Flack in the late '70s but jumped out of his apartment window, down 15 floors to his tragic death, a suicide at 33. His daughters Lalah Hathaway and Kenya Hathaway are professional singers. Donny remains much loved.