Donny Hathaway found his voice in tryin' times with the spiritual soul of this gifted ghetto graduation. Born in Chicago and raised in St. Louis by his grandmother, gospel singer Martha Crumwell, Hathaway attended Howard University where he studied piano and music theory. He dropped out of school and began working as a songwriter, session musician, and producer for Curtis Mayfield's Custom Records. His first record was a single ("I Thank You Baby" bw "Just Another Reason") for Custom recorded as a duet with singer June Conquest. It was at this point that he took a job with Chess Records as a studio musician.
Hathaway would reveal: "In the space of about two years, I had come from being simply a gospel singer and musician into all of this and I was feeling confused, tired and somewhat bewildered. Phil Upchurch recommended me to Chess and at the time they were especially busy in their studios in Chicago...Now, I realised my loyalties were to Chess and so I always put them first but, frankly, the arrangements for Curtis meant far more money to me. So, I decided to quit the studio job and make a try for myself. So, I got in touch with my old partner Ric Powell and we formed a company, Don-Ric Enterprises Inc. and a publishing business, Don-Pow Music. Then I started work for Curtis on arranging the material for what became the Impressions' 'Young Mods Forgotten Story' album and that was probably when I first made my name. People were extremely aware of my arrangements and I was suddenly making it."
Hathaway signed with Atco Records and got to work on his debut album with his old friend Ric Powell co-producing: "I'd written, for example, "Thank You Master For My Soul" back at Howard. The message was a combination of what I believed in at that time — and basically my beliefs now, I guess — and how I wanted to relate it with the world I was living in. It really only took me thirty minutes once I had formulated the actual idea. "The Ghetto" was written at around the same time — 1967 — but the companies that I took it to turned it down because they thought it might incite a riot! But it was and still is nothing but music. Curtis was the one who introduced me to the other Curtis, King Curtis. And King liked my songs, especially "Thank You Master", so I cut the first album, 'Everything Is Everything', for Atlantic."
The sessions featured Donny Hathaway on vocals, electric piano, and organ; Master Henry Gibson on conga; King Curtis on guitar; Phil Upchurch on bass and guitar; John Littlejohn on guitar and vocals; John Avant and Morris Ellis on trombone; Johnny Board on tenor saxophone; Oscar Brashear, John Howell, and Robert A. Lewis on trumpet; Clifford Davis and Don Myrick on alto saxophone; Aaron Dodd on tuba; Marshall Hawkins and Louis Satterfield on bass; Willie Henderson on baritone saxophone; Morris Jennings on drums; John Lounsberry and Ethel Merker on French horn; and Richard Powell on drums and percussion. 'Everything Is Everything' went to number seventy-three on the pop album chart and thirty-three on the R&B album chart.
'Everything Is Everything'
"Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)" (Richard Evans, Ric Powell, Phil Upchurch) – 3:28
"Je Vous Aime (I Love You)" (Donny Hathaway, Leroy Hutson, Edward Kennedy) – 3:31
"I Believe to My Soul" (Ray Charles) – 3:51
"Misty" (Johnny Burke, Erroll Garner) – 3:38
"Sugar Lee" (Hathaway, Powell) – 4:05
"Tryin' Times" (Hathaway, Hutson) – 3:15
"Thank You Master (For My Soul)" (Hathaway) – 5:50
"The Ghetto" (Hathaway, Hutson) – 6:50
"To Be Young, Gifted and Black" (Weldon Irvine, Nina Simone) – 6:43
"A Dream" (Robert Ayers, Hathaway) – 4:14