Chicago Celebrates Donny Hathaway

On December 8, 2019, in Red Hot Radio, by Wide View Publishing


Love Love Love – Chicago Celebrates the Music of Donny Hathaway

Chicago, Illinois – History was made at this year’s Millennium Park Music Series – and its maker was Mario Smith! “Love Love Love – Chicago Celebrates the Music of Donny Hathaway” was well-received by Hathaway fans, the City of Chicago and by native talent. – The best concert we covered this year!

Chicago is fertile ground for music, film and the arts! There are so many creative options available that locals are spoiled by the abundance of rich artistry. In addition to the multitude of independent concerts and festivals put forth around town, the City of Chicago also offers free concerts through the Millennium Park Music Series. Mario Smith joined forces with the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events to present an amazing tribute concert of Donny Hathaway’s music.

“We feel super fortunate to be able to get to do what we do.” Said Erin Harkey, Deputy Commissioner of Programming for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “We bring over 80 free music performances to this park every summer… This night is particularly special in that we get to pay tribute to a Chicagoan and one of the greatest musicians of all time, Mr. Donny Hathaway.” She also extended thanks to Donny Hathaway for his music, the organizers of the event, Mario Smith and David Chavez, for the care and thought put into the show and to the talented musicians for the magic they bring to the stage.

Mario Smith envisioned this project to resurrect the spirit of Donny Hathaway’s music and give respect to an Icon that has been overlooked. “Here’s our opportunity to introduce and reintroduce Donny Hathaway to young people”, said Mario. “To get them to understand composition and thought and singing a good duet with a sister that can sing back and be able to make music and play multiple instruments, and be vital and important to this time.”

Mario – the poet, unofficial people’s mayor of Hyde Park, and longtime host of “Entrance from the Service Station” radio show, hand-picked his team of professional musicians and singers and enlisted the musical direction of the critically acclaimed trumpet player Corey Wilkes. The result was an atmosphere of love, a feeling of cultural pride and a sense of unity through music embraced by millennials, generation X and baby boomers alike.

The best way to describe the Love Love Love tribute is to visualize an outdoor concert with the imagery of African inspired attire, talented black singers, socially conscious musicians, uplifting musical content, strings, keys, horns, flute, drums and Mario Smith as the host. The show provided pure excitement, skilled musicianship, and an appreciation for the talents of Donny Hathaway.

Dr. Helene Gayle, CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, fully endorses the celebration: “We are so proud to be co-sponsors of this event. At the Trust, we believe that art has the ability to transform lives and communities and can be a voice to the many people and cultures that enrich our community, our city, our nation, and the world. Donny Hathaway was just that sort of voice.”

The opening ballad “Love Love Love” was played beautifully by Frank McComb, on keys and vocals. The show climaxed with the powerful voice of Megan McNeal resounding the words to “Young Gifted and Black” and “Rock Steady” then with the closing song, “The Ghetto” belted out by Avery R. Young. Highlights of the show include a sensual duet of “The Closer I Get To You” performed by Sy Smith and Marqueal Jordan. Passion and clarity were also projected when soul singer Yaw, serenaded the audience with “You Were Meant For Me”.

Melodic background vocals of Tina M. Howell, Renee Ruffin Merrill, Ugochi Nwaogwugwu [who also sang a duet with Yaw] and Marqueal Jordan [on vocals and saxophone as well], brilliantly complemented the lead singers and musicians. The “two of everything band” included Corey Wilkes and Victor Garcia on trumpet, Kahil El’ Zabar on percussions, and Grammy Nominated guitarist, Henry Johnson who played with Donny Hathaway in 1977.

“I am not a singer,” said Danita Hathaway [Donny Hathaway’s daughter], “to follow in my father’s footsteps, I want to celebrate him and also shine the light on mental health. Chicago is going to be the base of my nonprofit – The Donny Hathaway Legacy Project. For more information, please go to” Danita Hathaway also thanked Mario Smith for creating the event in honor of her father.

Love Love Love – Chicago Celebrates the Music of Donny Hathaway was my favorite concert of the year. The music was outstanding, the love was felt and the spirit of Donny Hathaway’s music lived through all who attended the show. It also helped that Chicago’s very own beloved singers and musicians were featured. The event was well promoted, the outdoor venue was full and the event was free.

Donny Edward Hathaway was born on October 1, 1945, and he took his last breath on January 13, 1979. Donny Hathaway was listed as the 49th greatest singer of all time by Billboard Magazine. He won a Grammy – the Lifetime Achievement award – 40 years after his death. October 1st has also been declared as Donny Hathaway day in Chicago.

In the spirit of remembrance, as we transition out of this year and into the next – let’s take love, love, love with us – first by loving ourselves, next by loving each other, and then by showing some love for the great City of Chicago and all of the talent that has come through and from it.


Video playlist – To watch an exclusive interview with Mario Smith and footage from the concert click here):

Podcast – To listen to the Love Love Love podcast episode search ReadHotRadio.FM on iHeartRadio, Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Play Music, Deezer, TuneIn, Radio Public, or click the link on our podcast page:

Radio Broadcast – Listen to 1 hour and 10 minutes of music and dialogue from the Love Love Love concert: Live & Direct on RedHotRadio.FM [radio show]: Sunday, December 15, 22, and 29th 2019 @ 7:00pm (CST)

Note: Radio Broadcast of this show is 90% music. The Podcast mostly talks.

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