Donny Hathaway tunes

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Mister Soul!

Like so many great African-American soul singers, Donny started out singing Gospel from an early age.

Receiving a scholarship, he studied music at Howard University where he met his future favorite female singer to duet with, Roberta Flack.

After University, he started working as a songwriter, session musician, and even producer for Curtis Mayfield’s record label Curtom Records.

Working closely with Curtis, Staple Singers, and Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway soon started releasing his own records, the first being a duet with June Conquest, I Thank You Baby (1969).

The debut single charted on the R&B charts and a debut album, Everything Is Everything, followed the next year.

The debut had tunes like Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything), Misty, and The Ghetto, but this is mainly an “album experience” and comes highly recommended.

His next studio album came in 1971 and was simply called Donny Hathaway. One tune here, He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother, is well known, although mainly from The Hollies and Neil Diamond’s versions.

The same year, he sang backing vocals on Roberta’s classic Killing Me Softly With His Song.

His next album was live and included What’s Going On, The Ghetto, You’ve Got A Friend, and John Lennon’s Jealous Guy.

You simply must hear one of Hathaway’s versions found on an album called Someday We’ll All Be Free (it’s in the playlist above!).

It’s not just for the performance, which is great, but sonically, I do not understand how they got it to sound that superb. I suspect it’s mainly down to how everybody in the band plays and leaves space for each other.

The same year, he also released an album with Roberta Flack, simply named Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway (1972). Here we get a duet of You’ve Got A Friend as well as You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” (The Righteous Brothers).

Donny Hathaway’s final album came in 1973, called Extension of a Man. Check out Someday We’ll All Be Free and Love, Love, Love.

After this album, Donny slipped into depression and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. After four years in and out of the hospital, he teamed up with Roberta again and recorded The Closer I Get to You (1978) for her album Blue Lights In the Basement.

This led him to start working on another album of duets with Flack. Halfway through the production, Donny had a mental breakdown, claiming white people had connected to his brain using a machine to steal his voice.

The session was cancelled, musicians were sent home, and hours later, Donny Hathaway was found on the pavement, 15 floors below his hotel room’s balcony, from which police concluded he must have jumped.

Many artists have claimed Donny Hathaway to be their favourite singer, including Justin Timberlake, Amy Winehouse, and Raul Midon. The final song he recorded, You Are My Heaven, was co-written with Stevie Wonder who once said: When Donny sings any song, he owns it.

Donny Hathaway Tunes | Related Pages

Killing Me Softly With His Song

Killing Me Softly With His Song chords T

You can learn how to play Killing Me Softly With His Song by Roberta Flack using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, TAB, and the original recording.

Fm7 | Bbm7 |
Strumming my pain with his fingers…


Misty chords

You can learn how to play Misty by Ella Fitzgerald using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, TAB, and the original recording.

Bbmaj7 | Fm7 Bb7 | Ebmaj7 |
Look at me, I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree…

What’s Going On

What's Going On chords

You can learn how to play What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, and the original recording.

Emaj9 | Emaj9 | C#m7 | C#m7 |
Mother, mother. There’s too many of you crying…

You’ve Got A Friend

You've Got A Friend chords T

Learn how to play You’ve Got A Friend by Carol King and James Taylor using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, TAB, and the original recordings.

Em | B7/F# | Em B7/F# | G B7/F# Em Em/D |
When you’re down and troubled and you need some lovin’ care…

Donny Hathaway on the web

Listen to Donny Hathaway on Spotify.


Artist and Band biographies

Behind every single tune you learn, there’s an artist or band with an entire catalogue of music, waiting to be discovered.

Find out more about these great women and men, and let their tunes guide you to success with these Artist & Band biographies.

About me

About Me Dan Lundholm T

This article about Donny Hathaway tunes was written by Dan Lundholm. Discover more about him and how learning guitar with Spytunes has evolved.

Most importantly, find out why you should learn guitar through playing tunes, not practising scales, and studying theory in isolation.


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