Donny Hathaway was a soulful singer-songwriter and pianist who rose to fame in the 1970s. With his distinctive voice and emotive delivery, Hathaway was able to capture the essence of the soul music of his time.
He collaborated with several notable musicians such as Roberta Flack, and produced several hit songs that remain popular to this day. Hathaway’s music tackled themes of love, loss, and social justice, and his songs continue to inspire and move people all over the world.
In this list, we will explore the top 10 best Donny Hathaway songs of all time, showcasing his unique talent and the lasting impact of his music on the world of soul and R&B.
1. “This Christmas”
“This Christmas” is a beloved holiday classic that has become a staple in Christmas playlists worldwide. The song features Hathaway’s smooth and soulful vocals that perfectly capture the joy and warmth of the holiday season. The catchy and upbeat melody is paired with festive lyrics that celebrate the traditions of Christmas, making it a perfect tune for singing along and dancing to. Hathaway’s rendition of “This Christmas” has remained popular since its release in 1970, and has been covered by numerous artists over the years, solidifying its status as a timeless holiday classic.
2. “Someday We’ll All Be Free”
“Someday We’ll All Be Free” is a soulful and uplifting song by Donny Hathaway, released in 1973. The song delivers a powerful message of hope and resilience, encouraging listeners to keep moving forward despite life’s challenges. Hathaway’s emotional vocals and the stirring arrangement of the song make it a soul classic that still resonates with audiences today. The lyrics, written by Edward Howard, offer an optimistic vision of a future where people of all races and backgrounds can live together in harmony. Hathaway’s rendition of “Someday We’ll All Be Free” has been covered by numerous artists over the years, cementing its place as a timeless anthem of hope and perseverance.
3. “The Closer I Get to You”
“The Closer I Get to You” is a romantic ballad performed as a duet by Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack. Released in 1978, the song reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and earned Hathaway and Flack a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. The song is known for its soulful melody and heartfelt lyrics that express the growing love between two people. Hathaway’s smooth vocals blend seamlessly with Flack’s, creating a beautiful and emotional duet that is still beloved today. The song has been covered by many artists and featured in various films and TV shows, cementing its place as a timeless classic.
4. “Where Is the Love”
“Where Is the Love” is a soulful duet that he recorded with Roberta Flack in 1972. The song opens with a jazzy piano and flute intro before Hathaway’s smooth vocals kick in, asking the question “Where is the love?” Flack then enters with her equally powerful vocals, questioning where the love has gone and suggesting that people need to stop playing games with each other’s hearts. The song’s lyrics highlight the struggles and pain that people experience in relationships and the need for more love and understanding in the world. Hathaway and Flack’s voices blend perfectly, creating a beautiful harmony throughout the song. “Where Is the Love” was a huge commercial success, topping the charts in the US and earning the duo a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus. The song remains a timeless classic and a testament to Hathaway’s incredible talent as a singer and songwriter.
5. “The Ghetto”
“The Ghetto” is a soulful and emotionally charged song by Donny Hathaway that tackles issues of poverty and social inequality. Released in 1970, the song features Hathaway’s powerful vocals and a driving rhythm section, along with a poignant string arrangement that adds to its impact. The lyrics describe the harsh reality of life in the ghetto, including the struggle for basic necessities like food and shelter, and the sense of hopelessness that can come with living in poverty. Despite the somber subject matter, the song has a powerful message of resilience and strength in the face of adversity, with Hathaway’s vocals conveying a sense of determination and defiance that make it a timeless classic of the soul genre.
6. “You’ve Got a Friend”
“You’ve Got a Friend” is a soulful cover of the famous James Taylor song, performed by Donny Hathaway. The song features Hathaway’s signature smooth and soulful vocals, accompanied by a piano and background vocal harmonies. Hathaway’s rendition adds a layer of depth and emotion to the lyrics, conveying a sense of comfort and solidarity to the listener. The song was a commercial success, reaching the top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and solidifying Hathaway’s reputation as a skilled interpreter of popular songs. Hathaway’s version of “You’ve Got a Friend” has since become a beloved classic and a testament to his talent as a soul singer.
7. “For All We Know”
“For All We Know” is a soulful and heartwarming ballad that showcases his exceptional vocal range and emotive delivery. Originally written for the film “Lovers and Other Strangers,” the song has become a standard in the world of jazz and has been covered by many other artists. Hathaway’s version stands out for its simple yet powerful arrangement and the way he infuses the lyrics with a sense of longing and hope. The song begins with a delicate piano intro before Hathaway’s smooth and soulful voice enters, carrying the listener through the gentle and heartfelt lyrics. As the song progresses, Hathaway’s vocals build in intensity, culminating in a powerful and emotional finale that leaves a lasting impression on the listener. Overall, “For All We Know” is a timeless and beautiful ballad that showcases Hathaway’s incredible talent and musical artistry.
8. “A Song for You”
“A Song for You” is a soulful ballad by Donny Hathaway, originally written and recorded by Leon Russell. Hathaway’s version, however, is widely considered to be the definitive rendition, showcasing his emotive and passionate vocal delivery. The song features a sparse arrangement of piano, bass, and drums, allowing Hathaway’s voice to take center stage as he delivers heartfelt lyrics about a love that endures through ups and downs. Hathaway’s vocal performance on this track is particularly poignant, with his signature falsetto adding an ethereal quality to the song’s already emotional lyrics. “A Song for You” has become one of Hathaway’s most beloved songs and is a testament to his artistry as a singer and interpreter of songs.
9.”You Are My Heaven”
“You Are My Heaven” is a soulful ballad by Donny Hathaway, released in 1978. The song features a beautiful arrangement of strings and horns that complement Hathaway’s smooth and tender vocals. The lyrics express a deep and profound love, with Hathaway proclaiming his devotion to his significant other, comparing their love to heaven. The song’s melody is romantic and dreamy, and Hathaway’s vocals are full of emotion and sincerity. “You Are My Heaven” is considered one of Hathaway’s most beautiful love songs and is a testament to his incredible musical talent.
10. I Love the Lord, He Heard My Cry
“I Love the Lord, He Heard My Cry” is a gospel song recorded by the American singer and musician Donny Hathaway. The song was released as the opening track of Hathaway’s debut studio album, “Everything Is Everything,” in 1970. The song is based on the biblical Psalm 116, which speaks about the Lord’s mercy and deliverance. Hathaway’s soulful vocals and the backing gospel choir create a powerful and uplifting atmosphere that has made the song a beloved classic in the gospel genre. The song’s lyrics and Hathaway’s heartfelt delivery capture the essence of the power of faith and the joy of knowing that God hears our prayers. “I Love the Lord, He Heard My Cry” has been covered by many artists over the years and has become a staple in the repertoire of gospel choirs around the world.