Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Donny Hathaway - Jealous Guy

Donny Hathway
What up, yo? Here’s hoping that everyone (living within the borders of the United States wherein the holiday of Memorial Day is observed) had a great holiday weekend, and those of you who reside elsewhere did as well (you’re the ones that had to work on Monday...). It couldn’t have been better here in NJ, where the weather was spectacular.
We’re coming up fast on the first anniversary of the great Funky16Corners Bandwidth Crisis of 2005, in which the blog got a little more attention than we were prepared for (via BoingBoing) and had to jump to a more accommodating (and expensive) server. As that bill is coming due, the time has come for what should hopefully be a brief “pledge drive”. If you dig what we do here, and the sounds we post up, it would be much appreciated if you could make a small donation via the Paypal link in the sidebar to the right (directly above the Blog Links Section ----->) . All funds collected will go toward paying for another year of storage and bandwidth here at the Funky16Corners blog. Though the Blogger set up costs nothing, I do have to have a place to keep all the pictures and more importantly the sound files (especially now that I’m posting mixes), and that is - unfortunately – not free. Keep in mind that aside from the pittance that comes in from the Amazon links following some of the posts, there really is no other source of income to cover the cost of running this operation (aside from my own, increasingly empty pocket). If you can’t – or don’t want to – donate, that’s cool too. Unlike PBS, you need only scroll down to the post to avoid this momentary beg-a-thon. Thanks Larry _________________________________
Though I’ve known of Donny Hathaway since I was a kid – his duet with Roberta Flack, ‘Where Is The Love’ is still a fave – I can’t say that I ever knew much about him. I remember hearing of his tragic suicide in 1979, and was aware of the reverence in which he is held by many, but until recently never really investigated his music. In the last10 or so years I became aware of his songs via their early recordings by other artists. Though he is best remembered as a performer, Hathaway spent some years working mostly as a composer/arranger/backing musician, doing a lot of work for the Cadet label, his songs having been performed by artists like the Soulful Strings (‘Valdez In The Country’ on their 1969 ‘String Fever’ LP), and Woody Herman (‘Flying Easy’ on ‘Heavy Exposure’, also from 1969). When he finally broke out as a performer, first via a duet single on Curtom with June Conquest, then through his own albums on Atco (starting in 1970) it was immediately obvious that Donny Hathaway was a major talent on his own. While he is considered a “soul” singer, after listening to the work he managed to commit to vinyl in his relatively short career, it seems unfair to limit Hathaway that way. He not only had a remarkable voice, but his sound encompassed elements of soul, gospel, jazz, classical and pop music. He was a talented instrumentalist and arranger, and his albums (three studio LPs, one live LP and two collaborations with Roberta Flack) reflect his wide ranging sound. Though he is known as a major influence on the “nu soul” sound, he was much, much more that that association would suggest, and all of his records are worth seeking out, especially his 1972 ‘Live’ LP. One of the interesting things about Hathaway’s oeuvre is that although he was an accomplished songwriter, he loved to cover other people’s material. In his short career he recorded songs by Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Leon Russell, Carole King, Billy Preston, Van McCoy, Marvin Gaye and Al Kooper (among others) . On ‘Live’ he also recorded today’s selection, a cover of John Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’. Though ‘Jealous Guy’ has become a perennial favorite, with recordings by Joe Cocker, Jose Feliciano, The Faces, Roxy Music, The Black Crowes, Little Jimmy Scott and Peter Criss (?!?), Hathaway was the first to record a cover the tune, only a year after Lennon’s original recording on the ‘Imagine’ LP. The ‘Live’ LP is a tour de force, including the opening cover of ‘What’s Going On’, Hathaway’s epics ‘The Ghetto’ and ‘Voices Inside (Everything is Everything)’, and the lesser known but intensely melodic ‘Hey Girl’ which was written by his percussionist Earl DeRouen. Hathaway’s deft rereading of ‘Jealous Guy’, with its comparatively spare arrangement, stands apart from the rest of the album. Featuring both electric and acoustic piano, basic percussion and some nice guitar from Cornell Dupree, Hathaway’s arrangement takes the song into an entirely new area, making it his own. While you can’t deny the greatness of Lennon’s composition, comparing his own reedy vocal with Hathaway’s soaring interpretation at the very least unfair. While ‘Jealous Guy’ was released on 45 – paired with a studio recording, ‘Giving Up’ from 1971’s ‘Donny Hathaway’ LP – I would suggest picking up the reissue of the ‘Live’ LP. It’s a truly amazing album and a great introduction to his sound.


Anonymous Mark said...

Hey Larry
Came across your blog a few weeks ago and love it - I've heard loads of tunes I'd never heard anywhere before [and rediscovered a few as well].
Sent you $10. Keep up the good work!

6/01/2006 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Scott Soriano said...

One of the most underrated cats of the 70s. Thanks for highlighting him.

6/02/2006 01:10:00 AM  
Blogger Jessy said...

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7/14/2006 09:17:00 AM  
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