Thursday, October 21, 2021

Songwriter Shares Backstory Behind Donny Hathaway’s Holiday Classic ‘This Christmas’

*Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” remains the quintessential holiday anthem in the Black community. 

“A lot of black people would say, ‘Christmas doesn’t start until we play ‘This Christmas,’ ” said Nadine McKinnor, 79, who co-wrote the song with Hathaway. “It always got love. It’s a Wakanda thing, honey!”

The track was released Dec. 9, 1970, and has since been covered by artists such as the Temptations, Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin, Christina Aguilera, Chris Brown, and the group formerly known as Lady Antebellum.

“As with everything that we create in this culture, it starts with us, and then when it’s great, it resonates outside of our community — it becomes a part of the fabric of America,” said Lalah Hathaway, 52, Donny’s Grammy-winning daughter. “I think my father would be tickled.”

READ MORE: Lalah Hathaway Rails Against Camera Phones at her Shows: ‘You Are Not At a Zoo’


There’s an interesting backstory behind the making of “This Christmas,” and it all started when McKinnor was a young woman working as a holiday temp at the post office in Chicago 

Here’s more from New York Post:

As she would sing along to the Christmas music on the radio at work, she would also get into the spirit from all of the holiday-themed magazine covers she would see in the seasonal mail.

That “overdose of Christmas joy” at the post office led the aspiring songwriter to begin jotting down some lyrics in her spiral notebook. But McKinnor credits Nat King Cole’s seasonal signature, “The Christmas Song,” for providing special inspiration.

Although McKinnor hadn’t pitched her material to any artist before, “This Christmas” eventually made its way to Hathaway in 1970, when her boyfriend was doing some interior-design work for the singer in Chicago and suggested she present some songs to him: “I sang one or two songs, and then I sang ‘This Christmas,’ and he said, ‘Wait a minute, sing that again.’ ”

And the rest is history.

McKinnor said lyrics such as “Your eyes outshine the town” comes from her childhood nickname. 

“My only uncle used to call me ‘Shiny-Eyed Thing,’ ” she said. 

“I think ‘This Christmas’ truly is an answer to ‘The Christmas Song,’ ” said McKinnor. “I had a crush on Nat King Cole, so he’s the foundation of it all.”

Hathaway died of an apparent suicide in 1979 at age 33.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is a screenwriter and freelance reporter from Chicago -- currently living in Los Angeles and covering A-list entertainment for various outlets, including Emmys.com. She has worked for: Miramax, MTV & VH1, The Jim Henson Company, Hallmark Channel, Paramount Pictures, and for iconic indie film producer Roger Corman.

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