Saturday, December 13, 2008

What's playing in my deck - songs for you

"Out of snappin, my God tried to talk me/But what could get me half way calm, was this Donny Hathaway song/The tape that it was on, I had wanted while I was gone" - Common

As far as holiday music goes, I don't think I want to hear any song other than Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas." On a continuous loop. Well, maybe with some "Temptations Christmas" thrown in the mix to change things up.

No one has ever had a voice like Hathaway. I came to this conclusion earlier this week, when I stumbled across his remake of Stevie Wonder's classic "Superwoman" on YouTube. Honestly, I might buy an album that consisted of Hathaway singing his way through bread recipes.

Anyway, because it's my iTunes and I can do what I want to, here's a small sample of what I've been listening to from Mr. Hathaway:

1. Someday We'll All Be Free - For years, I believed this song was written as an anthem for the Civil Rights movement. Mostly because it was featured at the end of Spike Lee's biographical film about Malcolm X. Not so, at least according to wikipedia. It's such a hauntingly beautiful song. Despite the uplifting lyrics, I can't help but feel melancholy. Too foreshadowing.

2. I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know - Is this not what a man would (should) say to a woman he loves? "I'm only flesh and blood/But I can be everything that you demand/I can be king of everythang/Or just a tiny grain of sand."

3. Love, Love, Love - One of the more light-hearted, playful songs in his catalogue. I wonder what sort of singer Hathaway might have been without the hurt, though?

4. To Be Young, Gifted and Black - Just seems appropriate in a year that America elected a black president. "We must begin to tell our young/Don't you know there's a whole world waiting for you?/Don't you know the quest has just begun for you?"

5. I Believe in Music - More of that grimy shit. Donny does this best.

By the way, do you roll your eyes at the woman in your choir who insists on squeezing every last bit out of each lyric? Are you irritated with "American Idols" who seem more interested in hearing their own voice? Have you been to chitlin-circuit musicals where some of the characters keep trying to one-up their co-stars by holding ridiculously long high notes?

To me, Hathaway is to blame. His influence on music has lived on in ways, both good and bad. Lesser singers have tried to mimic his beautiful sound with little success over the years. It's just damn near impossible to replicate the anointed instrument that was Hathaway's voice.


Anonymous said...

Great post, but what about his classic duets with Roberta Flack, and the ethereal "For All We Know?"

That is one of the best performances of the song by anyone, ever. His voice, the piano, and the brief, tasteful strings near the end. Classic!

blackink said...

You know, I seem to appreciate Donny better when he rolled dolo. Not that I don't love the duets with Roberta Flack, especially "Where is the Love" and "I, Who Have Nothing."

And I'm going to give "For All We Know?" another run through the CD deck tonight. Sometimes, I just have to listen to a song a few times before I really appreciate it.

Same thing happened to me with Stevie's "Superwoman."

avery said...

i like Donny's take on Supewoman because it gives it a totally different texture. But Stevie owns Superwoman - they should copyright that to him, and no other songs bearing the title shoudl be made.

My favorite, favorite Donny is A Song For You.

blackink said...

@Avery: No doubt about Donny's rendition of "Superwoman." I don't think he even mentions "Mary" in his version.

But you're right. "Superwoman" belongs to Stevie. That's all his.

I feel the same way about "This Christmas," "A Song for You," and "Someday We'll All Be Free" for Donny. Folks shouldn't even bother.

avery said...

dude, have you heard Ray Charles on "A Song For You?"


blackink said...

Too late. You've done piqued my curiosity. I'm about to check it out, bruh.