Monday, March 03, 2008

Get to Know Donny Hathaway

For many fans of old school R&B, the music of Donny Hathaway is sacred. Hathaway's suicide in 1979 at the age of thirty-three ended a troubled and enigmatic life, but in that short time he left a body of compositions and recordings that continue to earn devoted fans around the world.

Hathaway continues to inspire musicians and his presence is being felt in more mainstream circles today. In Amy Winehouse's Grammy-winning hit "Rehab," she sings, "I'd rather be at home with Ray / I ain't got seventy days / Cause there's nothing / There's nothing you can teach me / That I can't learn from Mr. Hathaway." And recently on American Idol, contestant Chikezie sang Hathaway's "I Believe To My Soul." Not only did he perform Hathaway's music, but he did so with backing vocals by Kenya Hathaway, a daughter of Donny who is in the American Idol house band.

Poet Ed Pavlic has long been fascinated by Hathaway and his music. In WINNERS HAVE YET TO BE ANNOUNCED: A SONG FOR DONNY HATHAWAY, he uses poetry to get inside the performer's head and to portray how he saw and was seen by the world. "To capture the monumental paradoxes and prismatic genius of Donny Hathaway," says Michael Eric Dyson, "one must have an epic imagination and a sense of language that flames in poetry toward transcendent truth. Ed Pavlic rises to the task admirably."

If you don't know Hathaway's music and want to hear what all the fuss is about, check out the wonderful reissues on Rhino Records. Here's hoping that Hathaway is finally starting to get his due, more widely, for the musical genius he was.

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