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  1. #1
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    How the hell did Donny Hathaway and Aretha Franklin not release a duet?

    I've long wondered if there are any recordings of these two incomparable singers duetting. We're all aware that Donny played on some of her tracks, but it seems quite inconceivable [[at least to me) that they wouldn't have sung alongside each other in the studio at some point. Seems like an immense missed opportunity...

  2. #2
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    Indeed. Sometimes things ... just don't happen. My best guess is that Hathaway was celebrated for his album with Roberta Flack and all concerned, if they thought of Aretha & Donny at all, may have not wanted to 'rock the boat' with involvement with Aretha. Franklin and King Curtis never worked together again after the Fillmore, and that was promised.

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    The thing is, Donny was pretty much Aretha's male counterpart to me - both stunning vocalists and pianists who made no attempts to hide their gospel roots - which would have made for one hell of a pairing.

    Roberta, whilst a fine pianist, always felt a bit too restrained and slightly underwhelming to me vocally alongside Donny.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PeaceNHarmony View Post
    Franklin and King Curtis never worked together again after the Fillmore, and that was promised.
    The tragic reason why Aretha Franklin & King Curtis never worked together again after her classic Live At Fillmore West LP is King Curtis' Murder in August 1971.

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    Another possible reason why Donny Hathaway & Aretha Franklin never recorded a duet together was Donny's struggle with mental illness. He was hospitalized several times between 1973 & 1977 and his instability drove away many of his friends [including Roberta Flack*]. And while I agree that not having Donny & Aretha do a duet together is a missed opportunity, Donny did play keyboards on Aretha's "Rock Steady, her version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and other sessions [also Aretha did recognize him as a Genius in her autobiography From These Roots].

    *Donny & Roberta would reconnect in the late '70s for their classic duets "The Closer I Get To You", "Back Together Again" & the Roberta Flack featuring Donny Hathaway LP.
    Last edited by Motown Eddie; 05-18-2022 at 01:25 PM.

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    Donny certainly seemed to be relatively OK around the time of the Aretha '71 "Young, Gifted & Black" sessions that he contributed keys and organ.

    Quite amazing that there isn't a biography on Donny - the interview clips in the "Mister Soul: A Story About Donny Hathaway" documentary certainly saw some family members being quite candid and less guarded than previously about Donny's struggles and state of mind particularly in his latter years.
    Last edited by JM27; 05-18-2022 at 06:00 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Motown Eddie View Post
    The tragic reason why Aretha Franklin & King Curtis never worked together again after her classic Live At Fillmore West LP is King Curtis' Murder in August 1971.
    I always forget that Curtis was killed so shortly after the Fillmore gigs; I always think it was a full year or so later. Thanks for the reminder, MEd, and yes, a tragedy.

  8. #8
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    For those who may have missed it:

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    Some have suggested that she was "difficult. " As the Envio & JHud biopic seem to suggest. My take? Sexism. Male chauvinistic. Gender equality. Whatever the buzzword is nowadays. Funny in a man it's called ambitious, assertive...blah, blah, blah. [[See Luther.)

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    Sidebar: Saw clips of a play, "based on the life of Donny Hathaway," entitled, "Twisted Melodies." Anyone see the entire stage production?

  11. #11
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    Did Aretha duet with anybody before the 1980s?

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boogiedown View Post
    Did Aretha duet with anybody before the 1980s?
    On her first album, Paul Owens was a featured vocalist on LOVE IS THE ONLY THING.

    On her last Atlantic album, LA DIVA, she did a duet with Eric Robinson, I WAS MADE FOR YOU.

    Aside from those, there were also some Coke commercials with Ray Charles.

    She also did a live duet with Ray of SPIRIT IN THE DARK on her LIVE AT FILLMORE WEST album and a live duet with James Cleveland of PRECIOUS MEMORIES on her AMAZING GRACE album.
    Last edited by reese; 05-21-2022 at 04:35 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PeaceNHarmony View Post
    Indeed. Sometimes things ... just don't happen. My best guess is that Hathaway was celebrated for his album with Roberta Flack and all concerned, if they thought of Aretha & Donny at all, may have not wanted to 'rock the boat' with involvement with Aretha.
    Agreed! Atlantic saw a good thing in pairing Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack and wanted to keep that going. While we never got to hear what Aretha & Donny sounded like in doing a duet together, we do have the classic songs that Roberta & Donny did. And we also have the fine session work that Donny did for Aretha's Young Gifted & Black LP [as well as the non-LP singles from that era like "Bridge Over Troubled Water" & "Spanish Harlem"].

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    Missed opportunity for sure. I guess one of the "sad" "should've beens" of Aretha's career was that her 70s catalog does not include a duet album. Donny would have been perfect. Apparently Ree and Marvin Gaye were always talking about doing something but nothing ever came of it, but I sure wish it had. I love Aretha and Smokey's chemistry when they sang together on Soul Train, but that was for one song, a slow song, which Aretha does piano only accompaniment. Not sure if Smokey could match Aretha's studio energy. Al Green would've been another worthy partner. Ray Charles, obviously. Stevie would've been interesting. Aretha and the Four Tops definitely. Billy Preston is another. I want to say James Brown, but at that point in his career, I don't know how good of a fit it would've been. Bobby Womack could've been a worthy pairing.

  15. #15
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    Aretha and James Brown did end up recording a rather underwhelming duet called Gimme Your Love that was on the Through The Storm. Even a remix of it by Prince couldn't save it [[it's not that different from the original Narada Michael Walden production either).

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    Quote Originally Posted by reese View Post
    On her first album, Paul Owens was a featured vocalist on LOVE IS THE ONLY THING.

    On her last Atlantic album, LA DIVA, she did a duet with Eric Robinson, I WAS MADE FOR YOU.

    Aside from those, there were also some Coke commercials with Ray Charles.

    She also did a live duet with Ray of SPIRIT IN THE DARK on her LIVE AT FILLMORE WEST album and a live duet with James Cleveland of PRECIOUS MEMORIES on her AMAZING GRACE album.
    Aretha & Ray also revamped their "Spirit in the Dark" duet in the studio as a full-on gospel rewrite called "Ain't but the One" that didn't see the light of day until 2007's Rare and Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul​.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sansradio View Post
    Aretha & Ray also revamped their "Spirit in the Dark" duet in the studio as a full-on gospel rewrite called "Ain't but the One" that didn't see the light of day until 2007's Rare and Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul​.
    Yes, it was done for the 1973 "Duke Ellington, We Love You Madly" tv special.
    Last edited by reese; 05-23-2022 at 08:56 AM.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by reese View Post
    On her first album, Paul Owens was a featured vocalist on LOVE IS THE ONLY THING.

    On her last Atlantic album, LA DIVA, she did a duet with Eric Robinson, I WAS MADE FOR YOU.

    Aside from those, there were also some Coke commercials with Ray Charles.

    She also did a live duet with Ray of SPIRIT IN THE DARK on her LIVE AT FILLMORE WEST album and a live duet with James Cleveland of PRECIOUS MEMORIES on her AMAZING GRACE album.

    thank you reese.

    I suspect another reason is that Donny wasn't looking to make a career out of being "the duet guy".

  19. #19
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    I do recollect reading somewhere of Donny's dissatisfaction with his greatest commercial success coming from his "duet" work, though this was voiced not too long before he apparently somewhat begrudgingly agreed to another album with Roberta which contained his final recordings.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    Missed opportunity for sure. I guess one of the "sad" "should've beens" of Aretha's career was that her 70s catalog does not include a duet album. Donny would have been perfect. Apparently Ree and Marvin Gaye were always talking about doing something but nothing ever came of it, but I sure wish it had. I love Aretha and Smokey's chemistry when they sang together on Soul Train, but that was for one song, a slow song, which Aretha does piano only accompaniment. Not sure if Smokey could match Aretha's studio energy. Al Green would've been another worthy partner. Ray Charles, obviously. Stevie would've been interesting. Aretha and the Four Tops definitely. Billy Preston is another. I want to say James Brown, but at that point in his career, I don't know how good of a fit it would've been. Bobby Womack could've been a worthy pairing.

    Imagine if Aretha would have sang a duet with David Ruffin??!!

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by reese View Post
    On her first album, Paul Owens was a featured vocalist on LOVE IS THE ONLY THING.

    On her last Atlantic album, LA DIVA, she did a duet with Eric Robinson, I WAS MADE FOR YOU.

    Aside from those, there were also some Coke commercials with Ray Charles.

    She also did a live duet with Ray of SPIRIT IN THE DARK on her LIVE AT FILLMORE WEST album and a live duet with James Cleveland of PRECIOUS MEMORIES on her AMAZING GRACE album.
    I just remembered her version of "Mockingbird" as well. Who's the vocalist singing the "Charlie Foxx" parts?

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    Quote Originally Posted by sansradio View Post
    I just remembered her version of "Mockingbird" as well. Who's the vocalist singing the "Charlie Foxx" parts?
    Ray Johnson.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by reese View Post
    Ray Johnson.
    You are a treasure. Thanks!

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    delicious !!

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