I got interested in Donnie Hathaway after I heard Ruben Studdard was a big fan, and I was wondering: did he commit suicide?
Hathaway was a soul singer/songwriter best known for his duets with Roberta Flack; their hit cover of James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” led them to do two whole albums together. Tragically, on January 13, 1979, Hathaway fell to his death from the fifteenth floor of the Essex House Hotel. There was no note, meaning nobody will ever know for sure what thoughts were going through Hathaway’s head, but he had been hospitalized for depression; the coroner ruled his death a suicide. Jesse Jackson delivered the eulogy at Hathaway’s funeral and noting that Hathaway had been dressed for the New York winter in a coat, and scarf, contended that no one gets bundled up “just to jump out of a window.” Further evidence suggesting the fall was accidental: Hathaway had been cheerful earlier the same day, while in the studio with Flack. Furthermore, he was in the habit of leaning out the window of his 17th-floor apartment in Chicago, preaching and singing to passersby on the street below. Since he had been tossed out of other hotels for the same habit, it seems possible that it was a repeat of that dangerous behavior that led to his untimely plummet.
(Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.)