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Love Letter To A Record: The Teskey Brothers On Donny Hathaway’s ‘Live’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Brendon Love, The Teskey Brothers – Donny Hathaway – ‘Live’(1972)

Dear ‘Donny Hathaway – Live’

I’m sorry it’s been a while since we corresponded. Please forgive me. Music Feeds reached out and asked if I could write a love letter to a record that has greatly influenced me and although I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t listened to you since October 2019, I simply couldn’t choose another. As I listen to you again whilst writing this, I am reminded of the deep unconditional love I have for you and how much you shaped my approach to playing music live. You sit gracefully on my record shelf symmetrically stacked between some great company. B.B King’s Live at the Regal, Frank Sinatra’s Live at The Sands and Nina Simone – In Concert; yet for many reasons, you reign supreme.

In October 2019, The Teskey Brothers started toying with the idea of a live album. We discussed our favourite live albums and you came up as a reference point and a benchmark for us. We even decided to try our hand at a version of ‘Jealous Guy’ which was greatly influenced by your defining performance of the Lennon number. We hope we did you proud. As we all listened to you back in October last year, and just as I listen to you now, I can barely begin to find words to describe the impact you have had on me. Not only as a musician but as a music fan.

It all started in the summer of 2001. I was 14. It was school holidays and my nights were spent in Josh Teskey’s bungalow around the corner from my house. This was our safe house from the other teenagers who liked sport and listening to the Hottest 100. It was a meeting point where we would spend endless nights creating music together and be safe from the judgment and ridicule of the ‘cool’ kids. In between jamming, we would listen to music.

One balmy summer night, through the crackly op shop turntable, sat atop Josh’s makeshift milk crate shelves, I heard you for the first time. A familiarity and sense of nostalgia swept through my lanky teenage body, even though I had no physical connection to the time when you were recorded. ‘What’s Going On’, ‘Jealous Guy’, ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ were all songs I was familiar with, but I had never heard these versions. So much soul and feeling – the perfect soundtrack to my teenage summer nights. And a reminder that we had serious work to do if we were ever going to start playing gigs of our own. Willie Weeks’ bass solo on ‘Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)’ is still a master class in dynamics and developing a solo. It’s not how fast you can play, it’s how you can make people feel.

From that first listen at age 14 right up to now at age 33 you transport me to a place. A personal and visceral place that exists only in the setting of a live show. The audience hollering, the smiles, the chemistry of the band, the stench of a sweaty LA Troubadour. As soon I drop the needle I am there in the room with you, feeling the energy in the band.

You have it all. Donny’s voice, Willie Weeks holding it down on bass, Fred White’s undeniable groove on the drums, Phil Upchurch, Cornell Dupree, Mike Howard. Guitars sprinkled so tastefully throughout. A tight band, great songs, great crowd. And all recorded analogue. Something that was important to us when capturing our latest album Live at the Forum. I hope there is room for us on the shelf next to you. Thanks for constantly reminding me how to do it right. And to play every note with the entirety of your fucking soul.

Love from Brendon xox

The Teskey Brothers’ live album ‘Live At The Forum’ is out now. The live album was recorded to analogue tape during the band’s sold-out four-night stand at the Melbourne venue last November. Listen here.

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