Donny Hathaway committed suicide today (January 13, 1979) in New York city.
According to reports, the singer jumped, or fell, from the 15th floor of The Essex House, the New York hotel where he was staying.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson’s eulogized at Hathaway’s funeral in St. Louis, where he noted that there had been no witnesses to the event.
“Nobody was a witness whether he jumped out of the window or fell out of the window,” Reverend Jesse Jackson revealed.
“Because Donnie had been put out of several hotel rooms for singing loud late at night, he learned to stand in the window and sing out towards the wind at night. And since Donnie had the conflict about also wanting to preach the Gospel, sometimes he would stand there with this Bible in his hand and preach. Why Hathaway died is not as important as how he lived,” Reverend Jackson said.
Hathaway was born in Chicago Illinois on October 1, 1945.
He was a musical prodigy and by the time he was in high school, around 1964, he had earned a full scholarship to Howard University.
After three years at Howard University, Hathaway dropped out to pursue opportunities in the music industry.
As a session pianist Hathaway, worked behind the scenes on songs for artists like Jerry Butler, The Staple Singers, Aretha Franklin, Carla Thomas, Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions (notably The Young Mod’s Forgotten Story) and others.
His first single came in 1969 as a duet with June Conquest titled “I Thank You Baby.”
Shortly afterwards, legendary saxophonist King Curtis helped Hathaway ink a deal with Atlantic’s subsidiary ATCO, where he released his debut solo single titled “The Ghetto Part 1.”
Hathaway tapped a number of highly respected musicians for his debut Everything is Everything which was released in July of 1970.
Artists like drummer Rick Powell and legendary guitarist Phil Upchurch lent a hand to the album, which contains tracks like “I Believe In My Soul” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.”
In 1971, Hathaway followed up with the self-titled album Donny Hathaway, which contained the classic single “A Song For You” and the often sampled “Magnificent Sanctuary Band.”
In 1972, Hathaway released the album Live, while 1973 saw the release of Extensions of a Man, which contained the hit single “Someday We’ll All Be Free.”
Hathaway suffered from depression and retreated from the spotlight until 1973, when he returned with Roberta Flack to release their single “The Closer I Get to You.”
On January 13, 1979 Donny Hathaway was found dead on the sidewalk beneath the 15th floor window of the room he was staying in, while in New York.
Because of his previous bouts with depression, which included hospitalization and the fact that there were no signs of a struggle, New York medical examiner Dr. John S. Pearl ruled that Hathaway’s death was a suicide.