I saw a fascinating, hour-long documentary on R&B legend Donny
Hathaway last night. Even though I started listening to him in the late ‘70s—right
before he died, when his duet with Roberta Flack “The Closer I Get to You” was
all over the airwaves—I learned some interesting things about him. I knew he
battled mental illness, but I didn’t know that he was actually diagnosed
paranoid schizophrenic in the early ‘70s, a fact that became increasingly
difficult to hide from his family and friends as his career went on. This fact
really resonated with me, as I’ve fought a decades-long battle with the same
diagnosis (thankfully under some degree of control now). But despite eventually becoming overwhelmed by his darkness, Donny
left a legacy of absolutely transcendent music. IMO
some of the best R&B you’ll ever hear.
The name of the series, for those interested, is called Unsung, and
they’ve also had episodes on other R&B icons, including Tammi Terrell, Otis
Redding, Phyllis Hyman, and Florence Ballard, among others.