Donny Hathaway was the quintessential musician and a lyrical godfather of sorts to legions of R&B artists who say his singing – an ear-melting baritone – is everything a voice ought to be. Despite his resounding impact among music aficionados and a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, Hathaway’s name fell just below the ranks of superstardom and he never garnered the international acclaim of fellow ‘70s contemporaries Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Isaac Hayes.

But Kirk Whalum, an 11-time Grammy Award -nominated saxophonist and songwriter, invoked the former Howard University student’s essence on his latest release, Everything is Everything: The Music of Donny Hathaway. “The very first song I learned, besides ‘Amazing Grace,’ was ‘Everything is Everything,’ said Whalum, whose Everything is Everything album is nominated for the Grammy Award’s Best Pop Instrumental album, in a statement. “Throughout my career Donny’s voice haunts my every note as some Gospel tutor, some Soul mentor with extremely high expectations repeating: ‘You got to mean it. Every note.’”

Highlights on Whalum’s tribute album include “You Had To Know,” featuring a heartfelt ballad from the late singer’s daughter Lalah, and the bittersweet “We’re Still Friends” featuring Musiq Soulchild, who frequently references Hathaway as a powerful influence in media interviews. The CD also includes collaborations from a who’s who of contemporary jazz stars like Rick Braun, Jeff Golub and Christian McBride.

Whalum said the artists hope to reflect on Hathaway’s enduring legacy as the 32nd anniversary of his untimely death approaches. “Donny’s faith, his struggles, his convictions were raw and evident in every phrase,” said Whalum. “He meant it. And we feel it. We still do.”

Hathaway’s “struggles and convictions” came to a head Jan. 13, 1979, when passersby found his lifeless body sprawled outside the luxury Essex House hotel in New York City. According to reports, Hathaway leaped to his death from the building’s15th floor. At age 33, he left behind a wife, three daughters and a coffer of music, the impact of which remains pertinent in life and death.