Ed Pavlic’s requiem for Donny Hathaway

On Thursday Sep 25, Ed Pavlic drew a crowd to the John Dewey Memorial Lounge to enjoy his verbal renditions of his poetry. Pavlic has just released a new book, “Winners Have Yet to Be Announced: A Song for Donny Hathaway,” which is centered on the life, music, and character of the late soul singer, who met a tragic and mystifying end. The book is a moving account, through poetry, of Hathaway’s life. Pavlic utilizes imagined conversations between Hathaway and various characters (doctors, his wife Eulaulah, etc.) to depict an imagined persona around the celebrated musical figure. “He could open his mouth, put his hand on the keys and nail a person to the wall,” Pavlic said, repeatedly gushing about the power of Hathaway’s music. In one especially compelling section called “Interview: Graveyard Shift: Carr Square Projects: July 20, 1980: St. Louis, MO,” Pavlic creates a story in which a re?porter journeys to the place where Hathaway grew up, questioning residents about his legacy during the year after his death. One resident recalls the experience of seeing Hathaway in concert: “Women in the audience would call out to him when he’d pause/Other Women would answer them/Men didn’t say a word/I know I didn’t/The women’d have themselves a ball, a party, almost like they’re watching themselves on stage/Not the men/He’d take your life like you knew he took his own life/He’d wrap it around his fist and lay it up side your head…” which is a reference to many live recordings that Hathaway had created in which the women were the predominant noisemakers. This attention to every aspect of Hatha?way’s work is the striking feature; Pavlic is emotionally connected to the music of Donny Hathaway, and he infuses that appreciation with a dose of hard reality in his poetry. The work is also peppered with references to the underlying issue of Hathaway’s debilitating schizophrenia, a very dark and hushed topic among those close to him. “It’s so hard, dealing with something like that,” Pavlic said quietly. In the book, there is a figure named Mr. Soul, who follows Hathaway around in life and ultimately narrates the scene of his death. This figure, garbed in a black raincoat, serves to remind the audience of Hathaway’s secret life and his attempts to deal with his own personal tragedies. Pavlic expressed the uncertainty and yet also the brazen stubbornness that lay inherent in the character of Donny Hathaway, which were apparent in the soft, accented voice of the poet. His eyes roved the room as he played the part of the mysterious and gifted musician. “I just wanted to write a book about him, because no one really has,” Pavlic said. “Though not for lack of trying.” In his attempt to depict the soul musician’s inner turmoil, talent and ultimately tragic ending, Pavlic has succeeded in creating a tome that crafts its words so artfully that you don’t need to be a Hathaway fan to appreciate this wonderful labor of love.