The apple does not fall far from the tree. A few weeks ago we featured the legendary Donny Hathaway on our Sunday Jazz Corner and in it we briefly mentioned his daughter Lalah. This week it is all about Lalah Hathaway, daughter of the jazz and R&B great Donny Hathaway. Though she may be under the radar to some, if you do not already know about Lalah, you will know about her soon as she continues to rise at a rapid pace amongst her peers.
Born as Eulaulah Donyll Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway is referred to as the First Daughter of Soul. She is considered a contemporary R&B and jazz singer. In a sea of high pitched soprano female pop culture singers, it is so refreshing to hear Lalah Hathaway in the mix. There is something about her texture and tone in the same context as Sade or Sarah Vaughan and other infectious swooners that just makes you feel good inside. When you think of pop culture singers these days, you emmediatialy think Beyonce, Rihanna, pop, Hip Hop, soul etc. But with the Esmaralda Spalding’s and Janelle Monae’s and other newbies quietly making themselves heard, please take note of Lalah Hathaway and check out her music on iTunes.
The first video you will listen to below is “Something” by Snarky Puppy featuring Lalah Hathaway. I was referred to it by a friend and watched blindly, and unprepared. I started off listening, watching calmly, inquisitively, maybe slightly judgmental, sitting in my chair… watching, waiting… and as it continued I started getting this feeling, this emotion inside of me. I sat up straight in my chair and tuned everything else out around me. Now, in one hundred percent concentration mode listening and watching this video in front of me, completely committed with Lalah and her performance I begin talking to my computer screen… next, I am standing, now I’m yelling at my computer, clapping, cheering!! Alone in my apartment, goose bumps running all through my body up and down my spine I sit back down. Of course because I’m a man, I did not cry. Maybe just one tiny tear but I fixed that real quick and like I said, I was alone and nobody was there to see a thing.
I think jazz, gospel, good soul, rock whatever, is supposed to make you, make us feel this way, right? Sometimes rarely, music can take you there to this place and so when you do feel it and are a part of the art and why music exists in the first place, it is such a great experience. So ya, that’s kind of what my experience with Lalah was like. And just remember, nobody cried here!
Here are two videos below one Live in Harlem with Robert Glasper at Marcus Garvey Park, and the first one is by Snarky Puppy “Something” featuring a live recording of Lalah Hathaway. I could have posted 20 more like this but I kept it down to two. While writing this piece and listening to this music all I could think of was all of the music that we still can look forward to with future recordings of Lalah Hathaway.
P.S. At the 6:12 minute mark of this song does she sing a chord? I think she sang a chord!! And I love the drummers reaction, he literally got out of his seat as if to say, what just happened.
Singing with Robert Glasper in Harlem, Live at Marcus Garvey Park in August 2012, a classic Nirvana rock song “Smells Like Teen Spirit ” with a jazz twist. Brilliant.
To see more Sunday Jazz Corner Archives (Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, Sarah Vayghan, Cag Calloway and more…)
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A Song For You, was written by Leon Russell in 1970 and is considered an American classic. Many performers have sung this song, from jazz icons to pop superstar Elton John. But nobody has sang it quite like Donny Hathaway. This song is a great example of how a really powerful ballad can transcend all genres and styles of singers from rock to soul, blues to jazz, pop to country. Donny’s version brings out the soulful core of this heartfelt classic with his distinct vocal timing and texture and emotion bringing it to a level that few performers can reach with such conviction and truth. You really believe those lyrics that he is singing. There is no doubt in our minds that he has lived this song and he commands our complete attention with that touch of church added to it from his early gospel roots where he sang in the church choir with his Grandmother, who was a professional gospel singer herself. It definitely ranks in the top 10 songs written of all time, if not in the top five.
Donny Edward Hathaway was an American jazz, blues, soul, and gospel vocalist and musician. Known for his own songs and solo career he also had many hits with vocalist and friend Roberta Flack, including “Where Is The Love” and “The Closer I Get To You”. His friendship with Roberta Flack goes back to college days where they attended Howard University together and remained friends until Donny’s death in 1979. It is reported Mr. Hathaway was found dead on the sidewalk below the window of his 15th-floor room in New York’s Essex House hotel, and that he had jumped from the balcony. His life ended tragically and way too soon. It is written he had battled with psychological issues throughout the best part of his career. He began to suffer from severe bouts of depression and it was found that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Over the course of the 1970s, Hathaway’s mental instability wreaked havoc on his life and required several hospitalizations. The effects of his melancholia also drove a wedge in Flack and Hathaway’s friendship; they did not reconcile for several years, and did not release additional music until the successful release of “The Closer I Get To You” in 1978. Flack and Hathaway then resumed studio recording to compose a second album of duets.
Hathaway and his wife, Eulaulah, had two daughters, Eulaulah Donyll (Lalah Hathaway) and Kenya. Lalah has enjoyed a successful solo career, while Kenya is one of the three backing vocalists on the hit TV program American Idol. He also had another daughter, Donnita Hathaway. If you do not have any music by Donny Hathaway here is a great starter album for you to buy A Donny Hathaway Collection. He remains one of the finest singers of our time.
Here is Donny Hathaway singing Live 1) A Song For You and below it is the original version, 2) A Song For You by Leon Russell. Not just anyone can write a song like this. When you listen to Leon’s version, you can almost hear the song “visually” through his humble conviction and the sincerity in which he sings it. A timeless song transcends through all musical styles. The final video is a duet with Roberta Flack, 3) You Are My Heaven, which was co-written by Stevie Wonder for Donny Hathaway. He had a lot of angels in his corner. A very sad ending for an incredible talent. As one of the commenters writes in the comments section below, “this is music at its best.”
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