Albums of Black History: 'A Donny Hathaway Collection'

'A Donny Hathaway Collection'
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Atlantic/Rhino

In all great record collections, curation is everything. Those who put records on their shelves are making a statement - saying something about who they are and what they value. In 1990, just over a decade from Donny Hathaway's tragic passing, A Donny Hathaway Collection helped soul music enthusiasts make a powerful statement, while also helping make an equally powerful statement about the artist himself.

At the time of its release, 1978's The Best of Donny Hathaway, released less than a year before Hathaway died at only 33 years old, was long out-of-print, and his albums were only available on the then-dominant compact disc format as expensive imports. A Donny Hathaway Collection helped fans hear a generous overview of his near-decade of warm, tender soul music.

Watch: Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway Perform At 1972 Double Exposure Concert

Six of the album's 20 tracks were taken from his legendary duet sessions with Roberta Flack, including the best-sellers "The Closer I Get to You," "Where is the Love" and "You've Got a Friend." Hathaway's solo skills as a singer, songwriter and interpreter are on full display here, from dramatic reads of Leon Russell's "A Song for You" and Nina Simone's "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" to powerful originals like "Someday We'll All Be Free" and "The Ghetto." Mind you, almost none of these songs - now considered standouts in his catalog, were so much as released as singles, making this a true "best-of" more than a "greatest hits."

Read More: These Songs for You: Remembering Donny Hathaway on His 75th Birthday

This tide lifted more gems in his discography to the surface. 1971's Live album, already a gold record, was represented by a powerful delivery of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" that helped the LP earn its status as one of the greatest R&B concert releases of all time. Even the disc's closer, the passionate holiday original "This Christmas," shone well beyond the winter months on the set, helping rightfully return the song to Christmas radio staple status.

Read More: DONNY HATHAWAY: Classic Soul 1973 Interview

For Black History Month, A Donny Hathaway Collection is now available on vinyl - a popular format once more - for the first time ever, pressed on two handsome purple LPs. However you listen to these 15 songs, though, one thing's for sure: they won't be the last time you'll want to discover the genius of Donny Hathaway. And you'll be proud to put his works on your shelf.

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Lionel Richie plays piano as he rehearses on stage at NBC Studios in Rockefeller Center for an appearance on the Saturday Night Live television show, New York, New York, December 10, 1982. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)
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