Even before a single note rolls off his lips, you know that DONNIE is not your average singer. There's something in his round, expressive eyes; something in his broad smile and chocolate-coated skin, something in his casual, unassuming demeanor that gives you a clue: this is what true art sounds like, this is how it feels. This is the personification of soul.
Born in Lexington, Kentucky, Donnie migrated to Atlanta at the age of eight. His parents - both ministers - saw to it that their son attended church regularly. Another soul singer of dynamic proportions also frequented Donnie's home church - the unforgettable Marvin Gaye, who is also Donnie's cousin. His parents, through their teachings, laid the groundwork for their son's liberal views and staunch sense of discipline - both of which serve him well as an artist.
It was close friend India.Arie who introduced Donnie to Giant Step Records President, Maurice Bernstein. Their meeting resulted in The Colored Section which started out as a series of demos. Giant Step released a 7-inch entitled "Do You Know?" which many thought was an old soul classic. Radio DJs, including, KCRW's Garth Trinidad and New York DJ Bobbito Garcia, championed the release. On the strength of "Do You Know?" Donnie was invited to perform at London's famous Jazz Café.
Now, the young man whose following was once strictly grassroots and underground, is appearing in national TV and print ads for Coca-Cola. One of his songs, "Our New National Anthem," is used as the music bed for BET's 2003 on-air ad campaign; another, "Cloud 9," is featured in the film Brown Sugar, starring Taye Diggs, Mos Def, and Queen Latifah. As a further testimony of Donnie's success, the collection of songs that set the singer/songwriter on his path to fulfilling his dream was re-released collaboratively by Giant Step Records and Motown/Universal Records in May 2003.
The Colored Section is a musical synopsis of Donnie's views and philosophies. It asks questions, raises issues. It takes a stand. "I feel there is a need for my message; it's urgent," says Donnie. "I think people are ready for it." While Donnie says the album's title speaks to the struggles and challenges of being black, it also signifies the dawning of a new day pregnant with possibilities. "The colored section is a place that we were restricted to, but now I'm trying to turn it around and make it the hip place to be. I'm making something beautiful out of something that wasn't so beautiful at one time."
Adding to the CD's already potent recipe are guest performances by outstanding musicians such as Billy Preston, Al McKay of Earth, Wind & Fire, and Rufus' Bobby Watson. The first single release from The Colored Section, "Cloud 9," has been received enthusiastically by many radio stations.
As Donnie reflects on his humble musical beginnings, he's certain that his life prior to now has been a significant prelude to what is yet to come. "There is an energy coming from somewhere," he muses. "I feel a draft coming in and the energy is so good. Something is about to really happen. This album is important to me on a spiritual level more than anything. All of the other stuff will come." And when it does, Donnie will embrace it as only he can.