Donny Hathaway — “Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — September 5, 2022


573) Donny Hathaway — “Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)”

“Voices”, the incredible opening track from Donny’s incredible ‘70 debut album Everything is Everything, is not funk, but it is so, so funky!

Brandon Ousley writes that:

Before releasing his debut album in the summer of 1970, [Donny] was known for his session work on records from the likes of June Conquest, Curtis Mayfield, and Phil Upchurch. He was also a contributing arranger and songwriter for several artists, most notably for his friend and future duet partner, Roberta Flack. While nurturing his talents on Curtis Mayfield’s label, Curtom Records in Chicago, Hathaway was spotted for Atco Records . . . by producer and saxophonist King Curtis. He eventually signed to the label in 1969 and released his first notable single, “The Ghetto Pt. 1[]” . . . . Righteous and undeniably visionary, Everything Is Everything was the mighty culmination of everything Chicago’s ambitious soul master sought to accomplish in his early career. His reach was astonishingly rich, excursing and improvising Black music’s roots in jazz, blues, funk, and gospel. His insight and emotion evoked pure intensity, sadness, and truth in every wail, cry, and plead he vocalized. The sweat-drenched musicality and streetwise aura that percolated through the album[] . . . placed his unique artistry in total perspective. . . . [T]he entire album is a soulful paradise . . . .

Steve Huey gives some sense of Donny’s life:

Donny Hathaway was one of the brightest new voices in soul music at the dawn of the ’70s, possessed of a smooth, gospel-inflected romantic croon that was also at home on fiery protest material. Hathaway achieved his greatest commercial success as Roberta Flack’s duet partner of choice, but sadly he’s equally remembered for the tragic circumstances of his death — an apparent suicide at age 33. Hathaway . . . began singing in church with his grandmother at the scant age of three. He began playing piano at a young age, and by high school, he . . . [won] a full-ride fine arts scholarship to Howard University . . . . [He] wound up leaving . . . after three years to pursue job opportunities he was already being offered in the record industry. Hathaway first worked . . . as a producer, arranger, songwriter, and session pianist/keyboardist. He supported the likes of Aretha Franklin, Jerry Butler, and the Staple Singers . . . and joined the Mayfield Singers, a studio backing group that supported Curtis Mayfield’s Impressions. Hathaway soon became a house producer at Mayfield’s Curtom label . . . . [H]e signed with Atco as a solo artist, and released his debut single, the inner-city lament “The Ghetto, Pt. 1,” toward the end of the year. While it failed to reach the Top 20 on the R&B charts . . . . [it] set the stage for Hathaway’s acclaimed debut LP . . . .

John Bush enthuses about Everything Is Everything:

[W]ith this debut LP Donny Hathaway revealed yet another facet of his genius — his smoky, pleading voice, one of the best to ever grace a soul record. Everything Is Everything sounded like nothing before it, based in smooth uptown soul but boasting a set of excellent, open-ended arrangements gained from Hathaway’s background in classical and gospel music. . . . Hathaway wrote and recorded during 1969 and 1970 with friends including drummer Ric Powell and guitarist Phil Upchurch, both of whom lent a grooving feel to the album that Hathaway may not have been able to summon on his own (check out Upchurch’s unforgettable bassline on the opener, “Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)”). All of the musical brilliance on display, though, is merely the framework for Hathaway’s rich, emotive voice, testifying to the power of love and religion with few, if any, concessions to pop music. . . . Donny Hathaway’s debut introduced a brilliant talent into the world of soul . . . .

I include a live version from Donny’s ‘72 live album, about which John Bush writes:

Donny Hathaway’s 1972 Live album is one of the most glorious of his career, an uncomplicated, energetic set with a heavy focus on audience response as well as the potent jazz chops of his group. The results of shows recorded at the Troubadour in Hollywood and the Bitter End in New York . . . . “Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)” is an[] epic (14-minute) jam, with plenty of room for solos and some of the most sizzling bass work ever heard on record by Willie Weeks. . . .

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