Donny Edward Hathaway (October 1, 1945 – January 13, 1979) was an American jazz, blues, soul and gospel singer, songwriter, arranger and pianist. Hathaway signed with Atlantic Records in 1969 and with his first single for the Atco label, "The Ghetto", in early 1970, Rolling Stone magazine "marked him as a major new force in soul music." His enduring songs include "The Ghetto", "This Christmas", "Someday We'll All Be Free", "Little Ghetto Boy", "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know", signature versions of "A Song for You" and "For All We Know", and "Where Is the Love" and "The Closer I Get to You", two of many collaborations with Roberta Flack. "Where Is the Love" won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals in 1973. At the height of his career Hathaway was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was known to not take his prescribed medication regularly enough to properly control his symptoms. On January 13, 1979, Hathaway's body was found outside the luxury hotel Essex House in New York City; his death was ruled a suicide.
Sessions for another album of duets were underway in 1979. On January 13 of that year, Hathaway began a recording session at which producers/musicians Eric Mercury and James Mtume were present. Mercury and Mtume each reported that although Hathaway's voice sounded good, he began behaving irrationally, seeming to be paranoid and delusional. According to Mtume, Hathaway said that "white people" were trying to kill him and had connected his brain to a machine, for the purpose of stealing his music and his sound. Given Hathaway's behavior, Mercury said that he decided the recording session could not continue, so he aborted it and all of the musicians went home.
Hours later, Hathaway was found dead on the sidewalk below the window of his 15th-floor room in New York's Essex House hotel. It was reported that he had jumped from his balcony. The glass had been neatly removed from the window and there were no signs of struggle, leading investigators to rule that Hathaway's death was a suicide. However, his friends were mystified, considering that his career had just entered a resurgence. Flack was devastated and, spurred by his death, included the few duet tracks they had finished on her next album, Roberta Flack Featuring Donny Hathaway. According to Mercury, Hathaway's final recording, included on that album, was "You Are My Heaven", a song Mercury co-wrote with Stevie Wonder.
Hathaway's funeral was conducted by the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Later in 1979, the Whispers recorded the tribute song, "Song for Donny", for their self-titled breakthrough album. The song reached #21 on the R&B chart.