The first single from Donny Hathaway’s last solo studio album, 1973’s Extension of a Man, ‘Love, Love, Love’ is in keeping with the rest of the record’s grand scope, featuring rich sonic textures provided by strings and backing vocals in addition to the standard Hathaway band lineup that had been made (in)famous by 1972’s extremely influential Live album.
A lush mid-tempo ballad with an underlying swing 16th feel, ‘Love, Love, Love’ features some stellar bass work by the one and only Willie Weeks, who Hathaway himself famously proclaimed “the baddest bass player in the country”. Willie starts with long, sustained root notes before settling into a more syncopated root-orientated line for the second half of the intro; keen-eared listeners might recognize the conga pattern (and the overall atmosphere of the song) as being almost the same as that of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’, released two years earlier.
For the verses, Willie Weeks weaves his way through a classic I – vi – ii – V chord progression, crafting a masterful bass part that incorporates syncopated chord lines, chromatic approaches and Jamerson-esque semiquaver fills. He contrasts this with a more melodically restrained line in the chorus sections, referencing rhythms from the intro to construct his part.
Sonically, we’re looking for an updated take on the classic James Jamerson sound; precision bass, dead-sounding flatwound strings and a decisive fingerstyle touch. Whilst Willie Weeks’ sound has more clarity than Jamerson’s, it still retains a great deal or warmth. Getting the rhythmic aspects of the song to become natural may take time if you haven’t played the ‘straight 8ths but swung 16ths’ feel before – if in doubt, record yourself playing the lines and let your ears be the judge of whether or not your fingers are playing the lines with sufficient bounce.