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Donna Hightower

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Donna Lubertha Hightower (December 28, 1926 – August 19, 2013) was an American R&B, soul and jazz singer and songwriter, who recorded and released albums for the Decca and Capitol labels. Later in her career she was based in Europe, where she had a hit in 1972 with “This World Today is a Mess.

She was born in Caruthersville, Missouri, to a family of sharecroppers. She listened to singers such as Ella Fitzgerald, but never planned to have a singing career and by the age of 23 had been married, had two children, and divorced. While working in a diner in Chicago, she was heard singing by Bob Tillman, a reporter with the Chicago Defender newspaper, who then won her a booking as a singer at the Strand Hotel. Initially billed as Little Donna Hightower, she won a recording contract with Decca Records and recorded her first single, “I Ain’t In The Mood”, in 1951.

During the mid 1950s she recorded R&B songs, for RPM Records, often accompanied by the Maxwell Davis Orchestra as on her 1955 version of “Hands Off”. She toured widely in the US, with Louis Jordan, B. B. King, Johnny Mathis, Della Reese and others. However, none of her records made the pop or R&B charts. By 1958, her career had slowed and she began working for a music publishing firm in New York City, recording demonstration records of new songs. Her version of “Light of Love” — later recorded by Peggy Lee — was heard by record producer Dave Cavanaugh, and as a result of his interest she was signed to Capitol Records.

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