It’s safe to assume that Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” is a staple holiday song in every African-American home.
The song, released in 1970, was co-written by Hathaway and former postal worker, Nadine McKinnor. And while it wasn’t a hit at the time—debuting at no. 11 on the Billboard Christmas song countdown—it gained popularity decades later when it was featured in a Christmas compilation album in 1991.
Several versions of the Christmas classic have been recorded since—from Aretha Franklin to Mary J. Blige and Chris Brown. But we had to ask singer Lalah Hathway, Donny’s eldest daughter, which version was her favorite.
“Donny Hathaway’s is my favorite,” Hathaway told ESSENCE. “I know its Christmas when I hear daddy’s version. I would like to hear more of [it].”
“It’s amazing to be in Old Navy and hear somebody else; somebody that I’d never thought of and being like, ‘Oh, they recorded this song? That’s wonderful.’ It’s amazing to me.”
The Grammy-winning singer, who recently released her eighth studio album, Honestly, added: “There’s at least 10 or 15 versions of that record that have been re-recorded. There’s Macy Gray, there’s Gloria Estefan, there’s Chris Brown, there’s Christina Aguilera. There’s Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin… there’s a lot.”
We checked: there are over 20 recorded versions, with more possibly on the way.
Though she loves all the covers of the soulful ballad, Hathaway says there’s something unmistakable about her father’s version. “For what it is, for the sound, and the tone, and the texture, and the tenure, the feel, the joy and the pain in it. There’s no… no-one does it better,” she said.
We couldn’t agree more.