Donny Hathaway and Arif Mardin
Good midweek FMF Family, I hope you enjoyed this week’s guest mix from Funky 16 Corners. Today’s post is gonna be a short one, a long weekend mixed with some sunburn has kept me a bit lethargic, and the first road ride of the season (although it was short and cut off by thunderstorms) has left me friend. This side, and this whole record in particular has graced my turntable for a while, and it has helped me through some difficult times. This side I chose in particular is more on the funky side rather than Soulful, but if you don’t have any Donny Hathaway, I urge you to get out there and do yourself a favor: get it without question. It took a while for this to turn up for me in the field, but by the time it did I was aware of the genius he was. Here is a favorite artist of mine, Donny Hathaway with “The Slums” from the 1973 ATCO Lp Extension of A Man.
Born in the Windy City of Chicago, Illinois in 1945, Hathaway began playing the piano at an early age. His skill on the ivories paid off, as he was awarded a full scholarship to Howard University after high school. Professional musicians would call, which would lead Donny to leave Howard after 3 years and pursue real gigs. He did do some performing with the Ric Powell Trio while in college before taking a step to the bright lights. Before he was a front man, he did studio work as an arranger, producer and piano/ keyboard man for The Mayfield Singers, Aretha Franklin, Jerry Butler, and the Staple Singers. His ability shined bright, and he would move on to house producer at Curtom Records. Moving over to ATCO shortly after as an artist, he recorded “The Ghetto” in 1969. This song is a monster, and I personally love it. This inner city soulful anthem would be followed by Everything is Everything, Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack, and his third and final Lp where this side is from, Extension Of A Man. Hathaway and Flack would team up for a few duets, notably a cover of James Taylor’s “You’ve Got A Friend”, and “Where Is the Love” that would gain them even more notoriety and a Gold Record. While also recording some music for television shows, Hathaway was starting his long battle with depression. This depression resulted in him stepping out of the spotlight, his partnership with Flack to go downhill, and in and out hospitalization. He would pull it together for another duet with Flack in 1977, “The Closer I Get To You”, but before things could really take off again, he was found dead below from a fall out of a 15 story window. There were no signs of struggle or foul play, and the conclusion was that Hathaway committed suicide. Another great artist lost with so many years to go, losing to his inner demons.
“The Slums” is great Funky Soul piece, with Hathaway leading the pack on keyboard, and a great “The Ghetto” type vibe going on throughout. Check out this laundry list of people who played on the record:
Ralph MacDonald (percussion), Willie Weeks (bass), Rick Marotta (drums) David Spinozza (guitar), Donny Hathaway of coure (vocals, acoustic & electric piano, organ, keyboards, bass), Wayne Andre (trombone), Marvin Stamm (trumpet), Phil Bodner (clarinet, alto saxophone) Seldon Powell (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Julien Barber (violin), Gloria Agnosti (harp). This list isn’t finished because the additional players were: Stanley Clarke, Hubert Laws, Cissy Houston, Grady Tate, Cornell Dupree, Phil Upchurch, David “Fathead” Newman, David “Fathead” Newman, Joe Newman. This is a killer lineup throughout the whole record. This Lp was thought to be one of his weakest offerings, and I’d agree to some point, but “The Slums” is a standout IMHO. Besides this particular song, you need to rush out and get 1972’s Donny Hathaway Live though. His masterful cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” is amazing. Donny Hathaway could have done so much more had he gone on living. He left us with these great records, and I for one am grateful for that. I hope you dug this review, and I’ll see you on Friday with some more juice. Keep Diggin’!
PS: Check out my top ten over at the Soul Portrait site. Big Ups Alex!