Everything Is Everything
Proof that Part of Singing Is Innate, Not Learned
Donny Hathaway (1945–1979) never set out to be a singer. A keyboard player and gifted arranger, he began his career playing on Curtis Mayfield sessions. Hathaway then briefly worked with the R&B saxophonist King Curtis, who urged him to sing. That didn't do the trick. Nor did the entreaties of his wife, a trained vocalist, and Roberta Flack (whom he met at Howard University).
This reluctance is almost impossible to fathom when you hear Hathaway slide dramatically between pitches on the original "Je vous aime," from his stunningly varied and beautifully sung debut. He is completely comfortable in his own skin, singing to communicate, not to show off. He has a highly personal vocabulary drawn from plaintive gospel declarations and Ray Charles–style ad-libbing. His suave phrases emerge perfectly formed, each framed by his aggressive piano chords or plusher musical accoutrements (at times even French horns!) he designed as counterpoint to the simply stated melodies.
Hathaway went on to have great commercial success on a series of duets with Flack. But Everything Is Everything, with its churchy 12/8 devotional "Thank You Master" and its thrilling jazz-combo version of "Misty," remains the most vibrant (and complete) picture of his talent. It's also one of the most influential debuts in all of pop. Hathaway wasn't a household name when he committed suicide in 1979, but has become one since, as an impressive list of luminaries, including Alicia Keys and D'Angelo, strive to re-create his utterly effortless approach to singing. Needless to say, nobody's even come close.
Released: 1970, Atlantic
Key Tracks: "Je vous aime," "Misty," "Thank You Master"
Catalog Choice: These Songs for You, Live
Next Stop: D'Angelo: Brown Sugar
Book Page: 348
#1 from syd, Columbus, OH - 12/03/2008 7:48
This should be featured because it framed a generation. Because we can never hear enough about and from Donny Hathaway. Because, sadly, he is gone and all we have left of him and his musical Genius is his music-genius!