University of Texas, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

A Guide to the Donna Hightower Collection, 1951-2013

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Hightower, Donna, 1926-2013
Title: Hightower, Donna, Collection
Dates: 1951-2013
Abstract: The Donna Hightower Collection, 1951-2013, widely documents the musical career and personal life of this African American singer and songwriter.
Accession No.: 2014-037
OCLC No.: 890323476
Extent: 5ft.
Language: Materials are written in English, Spanish and German.
Repository: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Note

Songwriter and singer Donna Lubertha Hightower was born on December 28, 1926, in Caruthersville, Missouri, to a poor African American sharecropping family. She made her way to Chicago and, while working in the kitchen of a diner, she was discovered by a reporter from the “Chicago Defender” newspaper. He got her first paid booking at the Strand Hotel Lounge, where she was billed as “Little Donna Hightower”. In 1951 she was signed to Decca Records and released her first record, “I ain’t in the mood”, a classic blues number. During the following years she toured the country with musicians such as Louis Jordon, Johnny Mathis, Tommy Edwards and Della Reese. In 1958 she moved to New York where she recorded demos until one of them, “Light of love”, made it to Capitol Records. Her Capitol albums enjoyed moderate commercial success.

In 1958 she went to England and then to Paris, performing with Quincy Jones and the Platters. She stayed in Europe for the next thirty years, calling Madrid home for over 20 years. It was in Spain where she reached the peak of her career, being marketed as a pop singer and songwriter. After winning a European song festival in 1970, she won the notice of Spanish Columbia Records, and was offered a recording contract. It was during this time that she met and collaborated with Spanish singer Danny Daniel. Her biggest hit, “This World Today is a Mess”, was issued internationally as a record single, selling more than a million copies.

Later in her life she became a devout Christian shifting her musical career path. In 1990 she moved to Austin, Texas, where she went into a semi-retirement, performing solely Gospel and American Spiritual Music. She went back to Spain as a performer on several occasions, the last one being as the guest of honor at the IV Festival International de Jazz in 2006.

Scope and Contents

The Donna Hightower Collection, 1951-2013, widely documents the musical career and personal life of this African American singer and songwriter. Her papers include correspondence, personal stationary, contracts with different European record labels and television networks, promotional materials, flyers and programs, notebooks, original poems and lyrics, songbooks, certificates and documents showing her religious commitment. It also includes biographical notes and a discography, as well as obituaries published by American and European press.

The clippings and scrapbooks show the follow-up of her career by the media, chiefly by Spanish press, revealing the huge success she achieved in this country. The sheet music includes both musical arrangements for big bands, and Gospel sheet music and lyrics. The collection also contains a large number of personal and professional photographs, and several promotional posters. The sound recordings comprise LP records, CDs, reel-to-reel audiotapes and cassette tapes. Included in the collection are two dresses, a pair of shoes and several awards.



The collection is arranged into six series:
  • I. Papers
  • II. Media Clippings
  • III. Sheet Music
  • IV. Photographs
  • V. Posters
  • VI. Sound Recordings


Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Hightower, Donna, 1926-2013
Daniel, Danny, 1942-
Subjects (Organizations)
Decca Records (Firm)
Capitol Records, Inc.
Columbia Records, Inc.
African American women singers--sources
Women jazz singers--United States--sources
Gospel singers--sources
Madrid (Spain)
Austin (Tex.)

Separated Material

Some material has been separated to the Artifacts Collection.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Donna Hightower Collection, 1951-2013, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Paloma Graciani Picardo, August 2014.

Detailed Description of the Papers



2K110 Papers
Biography, Discography, Notes and Obituaries, 1989-2013, undated.
2X300a Bio-discography (CD), undated.
2K110 Correspondence, 1974-2013, undated.
Stationary, undated.
Contracts, 1959-1989.
Notebooks, 1976-1983, undated.
Promotional Materials, undated.
Set Songs Lists, 1976-2012, undated.
Flyers and Programs, 1974-2003.
Religious Commitment, 1983-2007, undated.
2W28d Spanish Red Cross Certificates, 1971-1977.
2K110 Original Poems and Lyrics, undated.
Donna Hightower (song book), 1974.
Danny Daniel songs, undated.
Songs with Gabriel (Gabi) Wesarg, 1981-1986, undated.
Gospel Music Workshop of America, 1986-1992, 2001, undated.
Gospel Songbooks, 1973-2005, undated.
Miscellanea, 1958, 1972, undated.
2K110 Media Clippings
European Press, 1959-1987.
Spanish Press, 1971-1989, 2005.
American Press, 2006, undated.
Other, undated.
2W28d Scrapbooks
Donna Hightower, undated.
Danny Daniel, undated.
2K111 Sheet Music
Big Band
Repertory for orch. of 12 or 13 pcs (song books), undated.
Scores and Copies of Recording Arrangements, undated.
Various (misc.) (sheet music), undated.
This World Today is a Mess, 1973.
I Remember April, undated.
Prima Donna, ca. 1985.
Too Close for Comfort, undated.
Corals de Mallorca, ca. 1989.
There will Never be Another You (big band), ca. 1975.
Para ti, 1978.
I'm in Love with Love (new arr.), 1985.
Various, undated.
Arrangement Sleeves for Big Band, undated.
Sinatra's "Let me try again" (title page only), undated.
2W28d Save the Dove, undated.
Paper Bag, undated.
Send me Someone to Love, 1975.
Almost Like Being in Love, 1974.
Swicegood Music, Beaumont, TX, undated.
2K111 Gospel
Gospel Sheet Music and Lyrics, 1990-2005, undated.
2W93a Photographs
Friends and Family, 1999-2005, undated.
Danny Daniel, undated.
Gabriel (Gabi) Wesarg, undated.
Promotional and Professional, 1967-2006, undated.
Personal, 1962-2007, undated.
2W28d Oversized, 1981.
2.325/OD10 Posters, 1971, undated.
2.325/R55.1 Sound Recordings
Gee, Baby, ain't I Good to You?, 1959.
Take One!, 1959.
This World Today is a Mess (empty jacket) - Columbia, 1972.
This World Today is a Mess (empty jacket) - Metronome Records, 1973.
Prima Donna, 1985.
Donna Hightower - Corals de Mallorca, 1989.
Singles, 1973-1982, undated.
2X300a CDs
Decca/RPM, 1951-1956.
Marfer, Keriola, Clem Records, 1962-1967.
Discos Columbia Records, 1970-1972.
Discos Columbia Records, 1973-1975.
Prima Donna, 1985.
Donna Hightower y el Jazz - Columbia, 1975.
All for the Kingdom of God, 1996.
Various gospel, 2002, undated.
I Will, live worship from Calvary Chapel of Austin, 2003.
River Bend Church, Austin TX, November 20, 2005.
4J271a Reels
Playback - Prima Donna, 1985.
Playback - Don't You Feel Alone Sometime, undated.
Columbia - Various with and without voice, 1974, undated.
Various, 1972-1984, undated.
Playback - Georgia on my Mind, undated.
Tapes, undated.