Living Donny Hathaway's Legacy: Lalah Hathaway

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The singer Lalah Hathaway’s first recording was in 1969. She couldn't talk yet — she wasn’t even a year old — but you can hear her wailing on her father's single “The Ghetto."

Lalah’s father was the R&B songwriter and performer Donny Hathaway. He was best known for soulful duets with Roberta Flack like “Where is the Love?” and “The Closer I Get To You.” One of the most promising talents of his generation, Hathaway suffered from major depression for much of his life and committed suicide in 1979, at age 33. Lalah was 10.

Lalah has carved out her own career in contemporary R&B and just released her sixth solo album, Where It All Begins. But she’s still coming to terms with her father’s legacy. She remembers covering one of her father’s songs during a performance in Japan in the early 90s, “and this man came, he was probably 50 years old … And he sat really stoically in the middle of the room and cried the whole show … It's really a testament of how much my dad really, really meant to people — even people who could not understand the words.” (Watch a video of the performance below.)

But R&B doesn’t have the same audience it did during her father’s heyday. “As a Black woman if I make a record right now that doesn't have any rap on it, or the drum beat not a particular pattern, then it doesn't fit on a hip-hop station, so then where does it go?” she explains. She wonders if her father struggled with similar pressure from the music industry. “I think as artists, sometimes we struggle because we want to do many things."

 

Bonus Track: “You Were Meant For Me” from Where It All Begins



Video: Marcus Miller and Lalah Hathaway, "Someday We'll All Be Free" (live in Japan, 1991)

Music Playlist

  1. Always Love You

    Artist: Lalah Hathaway
    Album: Where it all begins
    Label: Stax
  2. Someday We'll all be Free

    Artist: Donny Hathaway
    Album: Extension of a man
    Label: Elektra / Wea
  3. Valdez in the Country

    Artist: Donny Hathaway
    Album: Extension of a man
    Label: Elektra / Wea
  4. Little Girl

    Artist: Lalah Hathaway
    Album: Where it all begins
    Label: Stax
  5. I Believe in Music

    Artist: Donny Hathaway
    Album: Everything is Everything
    Label: Rhino
  6. The Ghetto Pt 1

    Artist: Donny Hathaway
    Album: Everything is Everything
    Label: Rhino
  7. This Christmas

    Artist: Donny Hathaway
    Album: Be There
    Label: Rhino / Wea
  8. You we're meant for me

    Artist: Donny Hathaway
    Album: Everything is Everything
    Label: Rhino
  9. You were meant for me

    Artist: Lalah Hathaway
    Album: Where it all begins
    Label: Stax