Saturday, March 29, 2008

Donny Hathaway Live!!!! Plus Some Other Fun Stuff.

Today's post is dedicated to one of my favorite live R&B albums and possibly one of the most talented musicians/singers of the 1970s. Donny Hathaway began his music career in 1948, at the age of 3, when he sang in his local choir (amazing I know!!!). Around that time, he also picked up the ukelele and started playing the piano after seeing Liberace playing the instrument on television. After attending Howard University, Hathaway went on to write songs and record with some of the greatest names in the music industry. Before working with such artists as Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin, and The Staple Singers, he worked for Chicago's Twinight Records. On a sidenote, The Numero Group put out a wonderful Twinight compilation which I reccomend to all of you. It is also available on itunes. Below is one of the more famous Twinight sides "Is It Because I'm Black" by Syl Johnson.

Anyhow, after leaving Twinigh Records, Hathaway became a producer at Curtis Mayfield's Curtom records where he had his first single, "I Thank You Baby." In 1970, he released his first album Everything Is Everything. In 1971, he released Donny Hathaway and a duet album with Howard classemate Roberta Flack. Below is the track 'Where Is the Love" which proved to be their biggest hit together.

Also in 1971, Hathaway contributed some piano parts to the Sam Moore (as in Sam & Dave) solo album Plenty Good Lovin' which was not released until recently due to the untimely death of King Curtis the week after the album was finished. Below is the title track from Moore's hidden gem.

Now that you have all of the background information, we can go onto the really good stuff. After recording two solo albums and working on countless other albums, Hathaway released Donny Hathaway Live. The album featured one Hathaway original, "The Ghetto," and the some covers. Side one of the album was recorded at The Troubadour in Hollywood and side two was recorded at The Bitter End in Greenwich Village, NYC (the same place where Curtis Mayfield recorded his classic live album). Both of the songs below are taken from The Troubadour concert.

Above is Hathaway's version of the Marvin Gaye Hit "What's Going On." I especially enjoy this song as it is more upbeat than the original. His ungodly vocal don't hurt either. Below is Hathaway's reading of Carole King's "You've Got a Friend." This seems to be the defining version of this song. Dig the angelic vocal accompaniment of the choir at the end. I think that might just be the audience singing with him. Amazing!!!


How can I make a post about Donny Hathaway's live album without including some live concert action. The tune is called "Put Your Hands in the Hand." This tune comes from Hathaway's self titled album and is a cover of an old gospel tune. This cut really sheds some light on the dynamic nature of his performances. Here, he takes a gospel song and transforms it into a funky r&B cut.

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