Donny Hathaway was born in Chicago on 1 October 1945 but was raised in St Louis by his grandmother, gospel singer Martha Pitts. He was singing gospel by the time he was three.
In the Sixties, he won a fine arts scholarship to Howard University in Washington DC, where he met Roberta Flack.
He was working with a local group made up of classmates when King Curtis discovered him for Atlantic Records, but Hathaway had already completed brilliant work as a producer, arranger, composer, and musician with Roberta Flack, Curtis Mayfield, and others before releasing an album of his own late in 1970.
Everything Is Everything – a collection of mostly original material including his spirited celebration, The Ghetto – was a confirmation of Hathaway’s strength and a remarkable, finely-balanced first album.
The single and album marked him as a major new force in soul music and he went on to prove himself a maestro of protest soul who effused equal amounts of political anger and romantic tenderness.
In addition to his recording work, Hathaway sang the theme song for the 1970s TV series Maude and composed and conducted the soundtrack for Come Back Charleston Blue.
Hathaway died on 13 January 1979 in a fall from the 15th floor of New York’s Essex House hotel.
The police never conclude whether he jumped or was pushed, but the glass had been neatly removed from the window, the room door was bolted from the inside and there were no signs of a struggle. Hathaway was just 33.