Donny Edward Hathaway (October 1, 1945 – January 13, 1979)
An exceptional soul singer from Chicago, Donny Hathaway’s life ended early, but he left behind a legacy of classic music. He started singing and playing piano as a young child, and eventually attended Howard University on a music scholarship. In the mid-sixties, he played with a jazz group called the Ric Powell Trio, and was soon producing and arranging for many other acts. He also worked as a session musician, playing keys with the Staple Singers and Aretha Frankin among others. That led to him joining the Mayfield Singers, backing up Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions. In 1969, he got a deal with ATCO and released his debut solo single “The Ghetto Pt. 1.” His first full-length, the timeless Everything Is Everything came out the following year, establishing Hathaway as a visionary artist able to seamlessly blend funk, gospel, and social awareness in his music. His second album, 1971’s Donny Hathaway was a much more somber affair, with minimalist, piano-driven cover songs. On it, he hooked up with Roberta Flack for a duet version of “You’ve Got A Friend.” The track became a hit and led to an entire album of duets between the two, released the following year. From that LP came “Where Is the Love,” a huge hit single that won a Grammy and topped the charts. While his career was at an all-time high, Hathaway was gripped by severe depression, so much so that he had to be periodically hospitalized. His third and final studio album Extension Of A Man came out in 1973, after which he kept a low profile, performing infrequently and then only in small venues. Several years later he reconnected with Roberta Flack and scored another huge hit with “The Closer I Get To You,” but it would be his final one. In January of 1979 he committed suicide by jumping out a 15-story window in New York City. Although his career was short-lived, Donny Hathaway made a huge impact on R&B and popular music in general, dozens of hip-hop artists have since sampled his records, reconfiguring his tracks into numerous rap hits.
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Tammi Terrell (1966)
Known for her duets with Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell was born Thomasina Montgomery on
April 29, 1945 in Philadelphia. Her younger sister says Tammi was raped by three boys when she only 11 years old. In 1960, she signed to a record label where she recorded a couple of singles. She left that label to sign on with James Brown where she began singing back up in his revue. Even though she was only 17, Tammi became sexually involved
relationship with James who was almost 30. One night on the road Tammi left him after getting mercilessly beaten. In 1963, her first charting single “I Cried” reached #99 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Frustrated with her failure, she decided to quit the music business and enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania where she spent the next two years as a pre-med major.
In 1965, on her 20th birthday, she signed on with Berry Gordy who changed her professional name to Tammi Terrell. During the Motown Revue tour which she opened for The Temptations, Tammi began a volatile relationship with the lead singer David Ruffin. In 1966, David surprised her with a marriage proposal. However, Tammi was devastated once she discovered that he had a wife, three children and another girlfriend in Detroit. This led to them having public fights. It is claimed that Ruffin hit
with a hammer and a machete, though these claims were denied by
Earl Van Dyke, leader of Motown’s Funk Brothers band, recalled David beating up Tammi in the Hitsville building.
Her sister Ludie Montgomery also confirmed a story that Tammi was hit in the face by Ruffin’s motorcycle helmet, leading to the end of their relationship in 1967.
In 1967 Tammi began recording with Marvin Gaye, they a close platonic relationship and the duo released a string of hits including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Your Precious Love”. While performing live with Marvin at Hampden-Sydney College she collapsed and was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Following the surgery in 1970, Tammi slipped into a coma and died on March 16, just weeks before her 25th birthday.
Keith Haring photographed by Yann Gamblin
in his studio, October 1989.
In 1988, Haring was diagnosed with AIDS. The following year, he created the Keith Haring Foundation to support children’s programs and organizations dedicated to raising AIDS awareness. Haring died in New York on February 16, 1990, of AIDS-related complications. He was 31 years old.