Donny Hathaway: Extraordinary Singer, Songwriter, and Pianist

Written by Jae Jones

Donny Edward Hathaway had an incredible voice and sense of style about him. He was known for his many talents, including singing blues, soul, and gospel, as well as being a songwriter, arranger, and pianist. Hathaway was born in Chicago to Drusella Huntley, but raised by his grandmother, Martha Pitts. Hathaway began singing in the church choir with his grandmother, a professional gospel singer, and by the age of three, he was learning how to play the piano.

He graduated from Vashon High School in 1963 and later studied music on a fine arts scholarship at Howard University, where he later met close friend Roberta Flack. He left school before finishing his degree to take a job in the music business. Hathaway met his wife, Eulaulah, at Howard University and they married in 1967. They had two daughters, Eulaulah Donyll (Lalah) and Kenya, both of whom are in the entertainment business as well.


Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records in Chicago hired Hathaway as a songwriter, producer, and session musician. He worked for several big names in entertainment including Aretha Franklin, Jerry Butler, and the Staple Sisters.

Hathaway recorded his first single under his own name in 1969, a duet with singer June Conquest called “I Thank You Baby.” They also recorded the duet “Just Another Reason.”  Hathaway recorded his most renowned album in 1972, titled “Live.” He is also known as the co-composer and performer of the Christmas standard, “This Christmas.” The song, released in 1970, has become a holiday staple and is often used in movies, television, and advertising.

During the height of his career, Hathaway began to suffer from severe bouts of depression. It was found that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and needed to take potent medication to try to control the illness. Hathaway managed to release “The Closer I Get To You” in 1978 with Roberta Flack after a prior strain on their relationship. Hathaway died in 1979 at the age of 33.


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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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