Donny Hathaway dies: Pop and Blues Singer, was 33

Donny Hathaway, the renowned 33-year-old singer and Grammy-award winning composer known for his soulful pop tunes infused with blues and gospel elements, tragically passed away on Saturday. The police have confirmed that he fell from the 15th floor of his room at 160 Central Park South’s Essex House.

According to Edward Howard, a business associate, the singer had just finished recording with fellow music legend Roberta Flack and had gone to dinner with her.

A police representative has announced that suicide is the suspected cause of death. While Mr. Hathaway’s room was locked and no guests were observed, the Vice President of David M. Franklin & Associates, who manages Mr. Hathaway and other renowned black performers, disputes this assertion.

“After spending the day writing new music and performing with Roberta, he was in high spirits. As we returned to our rooms for the evening after leaving her apartment on Central Park West, it was evident that he had not indulged in excessive drinking or drug use.”

Per his estranged wife Eulalah, he was hospitalized twice in 1972 for emotional issues, which she attributes to his rapid success as a singer. Despite being a straight-A student at Howard University, he did not graduate. Eulalah states that Mr. Hathaway did not use drugs.

Hathaway’s vocal prowess was unparalleled and his piano skills were equally impressive. Both instruments were skillfully mastered under his exceptional command. Renowned singer-songwriter Raul Midon praised Hathaway, noting that not only did he possess an extraordinary voice, but also the technical prowess of a classical vocalist.

According to him, he’s the most powerful soul singer to ever grace the music industry. Regardless of how you term his melodious renditions – soul, gospel, or any other – he emanates from a lineage of outstanding African American vocalists.

Born in Chicago I.L. on October 1, 1945, but raised by his grandmother in a St. Louis public housing project, Hathaway’s natural talent as a gospel singer became evident at just three years old. His outstanding piano skills earned him a scholarship to Howard University and later led him to work with legendary names such as Aretha Franklin and the Staple Singers as a producer and arranger. In 1969, he signed with Atlantic Records and introduced his first single, “The Ghetto, Pt. 1” to the world.

According to Joe Mardin, a renowned producer and arranger, the speaker’s words are so profound and significant that they must be heard. They convey a message that simply cannot be ignored.

As a youngster, Mardin crossed paths with Hathaway through his father, Arif, who masterfully orchestrated the singer’s renowned “A Song For You.” Though pleased to witness Hathaway’s recognition, Mardin scoffs at those who claim to be influenced by him. He maintains that Hathaway remains in a league of his own, far surpassing the average singer or musician.

He asserts that “I don’t think many people even come close to singing the way Donny did, or having the depth of sound and emotion in his singing.”

Mardin highlights Hathaway’s lesser-known talents as a writer, arranger, and conductor, alongside his exceptional singing voice. One prime example is “I Love The Lord; He Heard My Cry (Parts 1 and 2)” with its mesmerizing symphonic arrangement, featured in his last solo album, Extension Of A Man.

Renowned guitarist Phil Upchurch asserts, “No one can match the caliber of that song. It emanates from a divine source. One may awaken abruptly in the wee hours of the morning, only to receive a divine command to capture the thought.”

Upchurch frequently shared the stage with Hathaway and affirms that he has yet to encounter another artist who has moved him emotionally and musically as profoundly.

According to him, the clarity and emotion “could actually raise the hair on your arms, make you cry, and give you chills all at the same time.”

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