Donny Hathaway was born in 1945, and he died on January 13, 1979. He was a Soul & Gospel, Blues, and Jazz musician. He set up a contract with Atlantic Records in 1969, and his first single, “The Ghetto, Part 1”, was a hit in 1970. It got some critical acclaim by Rolling Stone Magazine, and they called him a “major new force”. Donny Hathaway produced some seriously good music, especially with the famous Roberta Flack, and he even earned a Grammy for his work with her. It was sad to all of his friends when he committed suicide unexpectedly that fateful day.
He had collaborations with Roberta Flack, and he had high chart-topping hits that garnered him Grammy Awards. He got a Grammy Award in collaboration with her in a duet for “Where Is the Love”.
His body was discovered outside the Essex House in NYC. The official ruling on his death was that he committed suicide.
The sessions for the second album composed of just duets he was working on were going on in 1979. He did a recording session with a few musicians, and they said that he was acting in an irrational way, acting delusional and paranoid. He thought that white people were out to kill him, and he thought his brain was connected up to a machine, for the purpose of stealing his sound and his music. Because of this behavior, he decided to cancel the recording session, and he shut it all down, and all of the musicians were allowed to go home.
Several hours after that, his body was found on a sidewalk underneath the window of his 15th-floor New York Essex hotel room. He had leaped off the balcony. The glass was deliberately stripped from the window, and there weren’t any signs of any altercation, and it led investigators to think that his death was a suicide. His friends couldn’t believe it, and the considered his career to just be taking off again, and his longtime collaborative recording partner, Flack, was devastated. Amongst several of his friends in Chicago, there was a rumor that he was in trouble with the mob. Hathaway thought that white men were after him for the gambling debts he couldn’t possibly pay off. Perhaps there was some truth to the allegations that he was making that seemed delusional.
Because of his death, she included a couple duet tracks that they had just completed on her next album. Hathaway’s last recording was “You Are My Heaven”, and it was a song he wrote with the help of Stevie Wonder.
Jesse Jackson conducted his funeral.
Donny Hathaway was a revered musician, and he’ll be missed. His music will love on though. His legacy will stand the test of the time because, like Rolling Stone Magazine said, he was a “major new force”. His albums and music inspired a generation of singers, and the duets, friendships, collaborations, and work he did with partners was a part of the national music scene for many years afterward.