Donny Hathaway, “You’ve Got A Friend”
written by Elizabeth Dellinger
On a faded, post-open mic Wednesday morning, I lingered outside to spark and while with my living muse. The blocks were sparse, with faint echoes of distant night workers fleeing. Dee soon arrived. She was known to us, as she performed on the streets outside the venues that shunned her. She always had a generous part of herself to give through poetry or melodies. The lady wasn’t begging; she was busking. We shared some of our bread with her. After a mutual exchange of gratitude, she began to sing.
“When you’re down and troubled…”
We found our harmonies with hers and fell in.
“Close your eyes and think of me, and soon I will be there…”
As post-gig musicians emerged from nearby venues to load gear, spontaneous four- and five-part harmonies bloomed from opposite directions. The scrawny but strong guitarist arms of my unrequited love coiled my chubby waist. I held on tight as our euphony fattened and more voices approached. Bemused bodies formed a circle. My head lifted to planets as they winked among ancient stars, existing as the infinite ceiling above us.
Together, our volume flooded the Elm City. A collective gasp of dank, September air released our unified, soulful sound frequencies to heaven.
“You just call out my name…and you know wherever I am…I’ll come running…”
In that moment I was aware of how powerful and special a moment can be. We were fortunate to be present in the presence of like-hearted beings from churches to conservatories, and from festivals to sidewalks.
This unforgettable memory has been on my chest lately. In a few weeks, I move to New Orleans. I have been verklempt with deep love for my CT/NYC music family. I’ve been thinking about the beautiful ones who lifted and held me down through single motherhood, cancer, vocal paralysis, recovery, and who shared the highs and depths of countless creative processes. I am leaning into a nostalgic, end-of-summer-camp anguish as I prepare to leave. It isn’t the first time I have gone, but somehow, this time feels heavier on my wings.
It is my understanding that in 1971, Carole King wrote “You’ve Got A Friend” to her friend James Taylor as a personal response to “Fire and Rain”. Although it was not originally intended for release, its pure and universal message reached #1. My favorite version is a live recording of Donny Hathaway from his collection, “Live”. The incarnation on this recording beams the song’s highest meaning. One can actually hear Mr. Hathaway being moved by his audience as they become a glorious choir around him. It is a divine, real-life music moment like the one I experienced in a parking lot in New Haven one Wednesday morning in 2014.
Wherever I go, I shall draw sustenance from the lifetime of music that sings me, and the loyalty these friendships have blessed upon me.
“Winter, spring, summer or fall….all you got to do is call…and I’ll be there. You’ve got a friend…”
Elizabeth Dellinger is a touring vocalist, songwriter, future music therapist, and owner of House of Voice. Follow her music on Soundcloud at www.soundcloud.com/drdellinger and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/houseofvoice.