Friday Night Music, October 23: Donny Hathaway, “Someday We’ll All Be Free,” 1973

Extension of a Man, Donny Edward Hathaway’s sixth album, came out while I was in my second year of college. This is my favorite of his output, and it also includes his oft-recorded instrumental, “Valdez in the Country,” “Love, Love, Love,” Danny O’Keefe’s (remember him?) “Magdalena,” (about an evil woman, yeah right), and Al Kooper’s “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know.” It was also his final solo album; his later recordings were all duets with Roberta Flack or recompilations.

That arresting, mostly instrumental cut, “I Love The Lord, He Heard My Cry,” segues gently into this piece. “Someday We’ll All Be Free” is the kind of song that makes you stop whatever you are doing and listen. You can’t diss yourself when you hear these lyrics in that voice. Whenever I wanted to feel good, and when I was feeling down, I put this song on the record player, followed by Aretha’s rendition of “Young, Gifted and Black.” The lyrics of “Someday We’ll All Be Free” are by Edward Howard.

Hang onto the world as it spins, around.
Just don’t let the spin get you down.
Things are moving fast.
Hold on tight and you will last.
Keep your self-respect your manly pride.
Get yourself in gear,
Keep your stride.
Never mind your fears.
Brighter days will soon be here.
Take it from me someday we’ll all be free
Keep on walking tall, hold you head up high.
Lay your dreams right up to the sky.
Sing your greatest song.
And you’ll keep, going, going on.
Just wait and see someday we’ll all be free.
Take it from me, someday we’ll all be free.
Take it from me someday we’ll all be free.
Take it from me, take it from me, take it from me.

From Wikipedia:

During the best part of his career, Hathaway began to suffer from severe bouts of depression. It was found that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and was known to have taken up to 14 pills two to three times per day to control this disease. This condition wreaked havoc on his life and required several hospitalizations.

The effects of Hathaway’s melancholia also drove a wedge into Flack and Hathaway’s friendship; they did not reconcile for several years, and did not release additional music until the 1978 release of “The Closer I Get To You”. The single became a popular and R&B hit, and Flack and Hathaway resumed studio recording to compose a second album of duets thereafter.

It is generally assumed that Donny Hathaway jumped to his death from a fifteenth-floor window at the Essex House, across the street from Central Park in New York City in early January 1979. He landed on a second-floor ledge, and then the body rolled off onto the sidewalk in front of the hotel. He had just completed a day’s work with Flack, and had shared a late dinner with Howard. Hathaway was not abusing substances or drinking and was in good spirits during the entire studio session.

Perhaps he was putting on, planning his escape just like Phyllis Hyman. She too suffered from depression, along with bipolar disorder, alcoholism, weight gain, and other maladies. But some don’t think that Donny jumped, but was pushed.

Lalah Hathaway is his eldest of three daughters. She has carved out an impressive career for herself since the 1990s. Kenya is one of the back-up singers for American Idol.


~ by blksista on October 23, 2009.

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