Donny Hathaway

By Siyu Liu

For my final blog post I would like to focus on a soul vocalist in the 70’s, Donny Hathaway. I first heard his song, “A Song For You” on the popular singing competition, The Voice. This song was originally written and recorded by Leon Russel. Many artists covered it with excellent renditions. Donny Hathaway popularized this song in 1971 for his self titled album and to this day it’s one of his signature songs.

Donny’s voice is very heart touching. His range is effortlessly switch-easy, and he controls a crescendo throughout the song. He also uses vibrato that’s not overdone. He stretches a lot on some specific words for emphasis. His lower registers are not as clear as his higher notes in terms of picking up the lyrics. He really exudes emotion in this song and aims it at a specific person as he is really singing a song to “you”.

Donny Hathaway won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for the duet, “Where Is the Love” with Roberta Flack in 1973. The two artists’ voices really complement each other in this duet. Neither is overpowering the other. Roberta Flack has a mellow, soft sound and Donny’s voice is really rich in this tune. Once again Donny showcases his lower registers, and they’re well executed. His voice isn’t all over in range in this song unlike “A Song For You”.

Overall, I really appreciate Donny’s voice and his contribution to soul music till his mid 30’s. His live album  “has been cited as an influence by numerous artists including Alicia Keys, Jon B., Chris Brown, Amy Winehouse, Beyoncé,George Benson, Victor Wooten, India.Arie, Jon Gibson, Stevie Wonder, Brian McKnight, Anthony Hamilton, Usher, Justin Timberlake, John Mayer, Led Zeppelin, Freddie Jackson, and Frank McComb.” (Wikipedia).