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  • Writer's pictureEmma Norton

This Christmas - Donny Hathaway

Donny Hathaway's voice is "like buttah." I have that Mike Myers SNL sketch catchphrase from Coffee Talk eternally lodged in my psyche. I can't see myself discussing a Barbra Streisand song in the future, so I will use the reference here.

Released in 1970, I conveniently chose this song that is celebrating its 50th anniversary as of December 9th and it is being commemorated with an animated music video you can see here. I genuinely had no idea, so if this isn't some wink from the universe or perhaps a Christmas miracle, I don't know what is. I don't love Christmas, which I will elaborate on in a future post. However, Donny Hathaway singing any song is good in my books, and "This Christmas" makes me belt out the lyrics (internally) and my hands naturally raise in these empowered movements as though I am Pavarotti in his operatic intensity. The song has been covered more than 30 times, from John Legend to Christina Aguilera to The Pentatonix, it has been reformatted into a multitude of genres.

The song itself, and through the new visual aid of the music video holds a very 70's vibe. Donny Hathaway, if you aren't familiar, is a soul legend, deeply influential on the artists that have followed him. "A Song For You" is another song of his I swoon over. I imagine myself sprawled atop of the baby grand piano and being serenaded, as one does. "The Ghetto," and "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black" allow you more insight into his slice of life, very representative of the era he lived in. His songs are simultaneously timeless, and almost like an education with his lyrics through the melodic overtures.

The end of the video playing upon the line in the song: "shake a hand shake a hand now" also holds beautiful meaning as we close out 2020, the year of necessary upheaval. Initially leading in as a traditional love song, the pivot toward a broader sense of the word transpires and it becomes very inclusive in the lyrics. It becomes very much a Christmas song that can be applicable to any scenario and simply bring you joy. Just like Santa.

Though Mariah's classic "All I Want for Christmas is You" deserves an honourable mention, Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas" wins out as the #1 holiday classic for me. It's just stands the test of time and feels very uniting in Hathaway's delivery. It's a little romantic, a little empowering and a lot of soul.

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