Donny Hathaway: You’ve Got a Friend

Written by Joseph Li

Pianist and Coach

In category: Song of the Day

Published November 8, 2019

Though this song isn’t a Donny Hathaway original, I agree wholeheartedly with Jack Gulielmetti’s sentiment in his earlier piece for NYFOS on “Someday We’ll All Be Free” – I really, REALLY love him, and likely could have made the entire week about him and his songs.

I feel like this week’s tribute to space in music and relationships had to end on this note. Even though you could probably title this song “You’ve Got More Than a Friend,” the message is clear – we need the people close to us to be close to us.

The way Donny shares his musical and vocal space with his audience drives them wild. He lets his band do the talking, he lets his audience sing out their longing – this from a man who could rend the darkest soul in two with his voice and the longing contained therein. Take a listen to his cover of “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” if you don’t believe me. And THAT is treatise on space if I ever heard one.

Yes, I know the song was written pre-smartphone and pre-email (gasp!) age, but the lyrics aren’t “you just text out my name.” Donny’s not talking about messaging someone on Facebook. You can’t brighten up someone’s darkest night via Instagram no matter how many puppy/kitten videos you send.

He’s talking about how he’ll come running to see you again, because he knows that the only true antidote to people’s cruelty is being held by someone who loves you. Nothing less will brighten up someone’s darkest night. If you disagree, I’d wager that a) you haven’t experienced your darkest night yet, or b) you haven’t experienced someone else’s.

Let’s not wait until it gets that dark. Run to each other, be present in each other’s space, and remember to let them breathe.

author: Joseph Li

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Seattle native Joseph Li has played and coached for Houston Grand Opera, Wolf Trap Opera Company, Minnesota Opera, The Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, Opera Lyra Ottawa, Arizona Opera, Opera Birmingham, and the Aspen Opera Theater Center. Last summer at Wolf Trap Opera he conducted Philip Glass’ chamber opera The Fall of the House of Usher in collaboration with the Halcyon Stage in Washington, D.C.; and performed in a two-piano recital alongside Steven Blier, Artistic Director of the New York Festival of Song. Mr. Li joined the faculty of Baylor University’s School of Music in 2016. Recent collaborations include appearances with Minnesota Opera, Arizona Opera, Lone Star Lyric, MATCH Theater, and the Dallas Museum of Art. Hear Joseph Li perform with NYFOS on December 12 in Tain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do: Songs from Gay Harlem.


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