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Brilliant theorist's natural talent

Donny Hathaway was the classic case of an artist who appeared to have everything to live for yet decided that the opposite was the case.

A singer and musician who combined street music nous with classical and jazz theory, gospel roots and a mind full of enquiry, he left behind a relatively modest-sized body of recorded work that had depth beyond measure.

He's best remembered by the wider music audience for his recorded duets with Roberta Flack, including Where is the Love, but his compositions including the now perennial This Christmas (covered by singers from Diana Ross to Harry Connick Jnr) and Valdez in the Country (which helped George Benson's In Flight album to go platinum) ensure that his music still reaches the public, often without them knowing.

Born in Chicago, Hathaway was brought up by his grandmother Martha Pitts, a respected gospel singer who nurtured his natural talent. Atlantic Records legend Jerry Wexler described him as the most brilliant musical theorist he'd ever met and Hathaway's arrangements for Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin et al would support this. His Fender Rhodes piano style remains an influence on musicians today and his singing is the benchmark for anyone using the phrase "soul singer".

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