Lalah Hathaway-Grateful For Her Father's Gifts

Look at Lalah's cheeks! Awww!

Lalah Hathaway barely knew her father, who died in a fall from a New York City hotel room at age 33 in 1979. But the 36-year-old singer-songwriter shares Donny Hathaway's warm vocal tone, his extensive knowledge of music and his strong work ethic, which she has parlayed into a successful musical career of her own. In the past 15 years, Hathaway has recorded four solo albums, "Lalah Hathaway" (1992), "Moment" (1994) "Outrun the Sky" (2004) and "Self Portrait" (2008). She has headlined at nightclubs and music festivals around the world and toured and recorded with Mary J. Blige, Marcus Miller and Me'shell NdegeOcello, to name a few. "I don't really have any childhood memories of my dad, unfortunately," said Hathaway. "I was 10 years old when he passed, so my memories are kind of skewed. I don't have many memories of my childhood, period." Donny Hathaway was born in Chicago and raised in St. Louis, where he began his gospel training in the church at age 3. His talents as a singer-pianist earned him full scholarship to Howard University in Washington, D.C. He worked as a session musician for Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield and the Staple Singers before recording well-received solo albums "Everything Is Everything," "Donny Hathaway" and "Extension of a Man." When he hooked up with another Howard alumna, Roberta Flack, Hathaway struck gold with hits that included "The Closer I Get to You," "Back Together Again" and the Grammy-winning "Where Is the Love" in the '70s. Despite the optimistic nature of his music, Hathaway was a troubled man who was periodically hospitalized for depression. His fall from the window of his 15th floor hotel room was ruled a suicide. Like other offspring of famous singers, such as Natalie Cole (daughter of Nat "King" Cole), Ziggy Marley (son of Bob) and Jakob Dylan (son of the other Bob), Hathaway inherited the advantage of having a famous last name along with the burden of being constantly compared to her father and the pressure to live up to his legacy.

"It would be hard to be a singer, musician or have ears and not be an admirer of my dad," said Hathaway, who performs some of her father's songs during her shows. "I can only say that now that I'm older, because growing up, I thought I was biased. I thought it was just me. Now I see that he left his mark on the world."

Miller, who has produced everyone from Miles Davis to Luther Vandross to Mariah Carey, first heard of Lalah Hathaway's talent while she was a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston in the early '90s.

"Everyone was talking about her and telling me I had to check out Donny's daughter," said Miller. "I had a gig in Japan at a festival and I wanted to bring in something new, so I asked her to perform. She was just so musical, so fantastic. Every once in a while she would hit one of those notes that would make you think of her father. We've been working together off and on since then."

Miller, who collaborated with Hathaway on a track called "La Villette" from his 2005 compilation "Silver Rain," praises her versatility in both jazz and R&B genres.

"If you listen to Donny Hathaway, he had a lot of jazz elements in the way he sang," said Miller. "For me, the two styles borrow from each other so much that sometimes it's hard for me to make a distinction. When you hear Lalah sing the combination, that's when she really shines -- when she's allowed to dip into her jazz when she wants to and then get soulful and do the R&B thing."

Hathaway was around music constantly when she was growing up. She and her younger sister, Kenya Hathaway (a singer, guitarist and percussionist who tours with George Benson), studied piano and attended performing-arts high schools. Their mother, Eulaulah Hathaway (she never re-married after her husband's death), is a classically trained vocalist.

Hathaway, who lives in Los Angeles, still has sentimental ties to her hometown, Chicago, which, she says, is full of culture, great food and music. Members of her father's family live there and she tries to visit and perform in Chicago as often as possible.

"In college, I decided to listen to instrumentalists, because I knew it would help me shape what my personal style was," said Hathaway. "I love Donald Fagan. Steely Dan is a part of the fabric of my youth. I grew up with songs like 'FM' and 'Peg.' All those songs are gonna last forever."

After her shows, Hathaway socializes with friends she meets through the message board on her Web site, She regularly updates the site's poems and song lyrics.

"I do a lot of inward thoughts and meditation," said Hathaway. "I listen to a lot of music. I'm not an extremely religious person. I am an extremely spiritual person. It's more of a feeling than something I can talk about."

Hathaway wrote the lyrics to the jazz-infused "Outrun the Sky" on a turbulent flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

"I wrote that song as sort of a prayer, listing all of the things I would do once the plane landed safely on the ground," said Hathaway. I'm not a good flier. I do a lot of writing, sleeping, meditation and prayer when I'm in the air. I'm actually better on the overseas trips. When I fly to Japan or Europe, I feel safer on the plane."

She said the reason for the 10-year gap between her second and third album was basically economic. Although her solo albums did not reach gold or platinum status or win Grammy awards, Hathaway has remained true to her art. She admits that it is harder to find a label that will produce a jazz-infused soul recording that is not pop oriented.

"It's kind of a twisted cycle, but I think that there is less money in real music these days," said Hathaway.

Like her father, Hathaway is committed to reaching people through her performances and making quality music.

"Between records, I was on the road with various artists. I traveled to Europe with the Daughters of Soul tour, with the daughters of Chaka Khan and Nina Simone along with Joyce Kennedy from Mother's Finest and Nona Hendryx from Labelle. It was put together by Sandra St. Victor of the Family Stand. That was big fun. I'm always working. I'm just looking forward to getting out and playing as many places as I can, because that's the reason I make records."

Let Go

Let Go

Ask her to describe her voice and she might say it feels like, sounds like, soul. But when it comes to defining the essence of music, itself, Lalah Hathaway can go on and on…

“Music is so textured and layered,” she says, “and it is an absolute entity in my life. It’s three-dimensional, it’s tangible, and when I die, I’ll say goodbye to it, just as I will to everyone standing around my bed.”

In the four years since she’s blessed the people with a set of songs, she’s been “working, writing music and living a very, simple life. Many people think that you’re just lounging between albums, but that time for me was about trying to find a place to land that will give you the opportunity to create something artful, something mindful,” Lalah notes.

With SELF PORTRAIT, (Stax Records/Concord Music Group), her fifth studio album, including the Joe Sample duet, and on which she co-wrote and co-produced, Hathaway is poised to express who she is, where she is, today, at this very moment. For starters, she is an artist, of course, but she’s also a devoted daughter, culture junkie and a good friend, even. But not necessarily in that order.

“This album is like a movie of my life over the last couple of years,” she says. “The portrait I see of myself is of a very confident, smart woman who is extremely funny, independently wealthy and well-traveled – all things that I am to a small degree., she laughs. “Every day, I realize that I’m walking toward the woman I’m going to be. She’s there. I can see her. “

Leading the 12-song collection is Let Go, a dance-oriented, up-tempo number she produced with Rex Rideout and wrote alongside Rahsaan Patterson. And just as the title suggests, the song is about acknowledging and releasing whatever’s not working to make room for the next experience. “I’ve had to let go of quite a few things, quite a few situations and a couple of mindsets,” she admits about the origins of her first single. “Every so often, I have to remind myself to just let some stuff go – from people and relationships to an old pair of jeans.”

While it might seem that “On Your Own,”which re-teams her with Rideout and Patterson, is inspired by a past heartbreak, in fact, the idea for the song came to her in a dream. “My father was singing to me and telling me that I could make it on my own,” she reflects. Keeping in step with the theme of family, she journeys back to her childhood with “Little Girl,” which she co-produced with Rideout and penned with Patterson and Sandra St. Victor. When she reminisces about growing up under the watchful eye of her mother, she’s always felt the presence of her father in her life.

On That Was Then,” which she produced with Rideout and written with St. Victor, Hathaway recalls her former self and how much she didn’t know way back then. “I called Sandra in Amsterdam on a Tuesday and said, ‘I don’t know what to write,’” she says. “She was there, helping me craft the melody, by Friday. She’s a baaad girl.” Closing out the album is the Hathaway-produced, Tragic Inevitability,” a song that stands out for her because of its fluidity. “My friend told me that she got some love while listening to this song, which horrified me and made me happy at the same time,” she remembers. “The track was sent to me by two cats from Amsterdam, Wiboud Burkens and Manuel Hugas, whom I met with Sandra. I just wrote the words that came to me.” As she sings about the things that will no longer be, you might actually feel soothed because, after all, the only constant is change. Life is funny that way.

Born to Donny Hathaway, one of the most influential soul artists of the seventies, and Eulaulah Hathaway, an accomplished musician in her own right, the Chicago native first put pen to paper, “with the music,” as a 10th grader. Later, as a student at Berklee College of Music, she recorded her self-titled debut in 1990, which spawned the hits “Baby Don’t Cry,” “Heaven Only Knows” and “I’m Coming Back.” She returned four years later with A Moment, followed by the much-lauded The Song Lives On, her duet album with Joe Sample in 1999, the same year she began growing her now-signature, cinnamon-hued ‘locs. By 2004, she’d deliver her fourth album, Outrun the Sky, garnering Hathaway her first number one single, the Rex Rideout-produced cover of Luther Vandross’ Forever, For Always, For Love, which was also featured on the critically-acclaimed Vandross tribute album of the same name.

Although she has created a space for herself, it’s not surprising that Hathaway remains connected to her late, great father and his classic sound. “I am his daughter,” she says, softly, “and that’s the truth of who I am, every day. When I was 15, and then, 20, I didn’t get why people were asking me how I felt about him and his music. But when I turned 25, I began to understand. Like my father, I want to leave a legacy of music that makes people really feel something, whether it be happiness, sadness, grief or heartache. I also want them to appreciate my humor which I know can be difficult to interpret in a song.”

In the meantime and between album projects, Hathaway – who’s recorded collaborations with Marcus Miller, Meshell Ndegéocello and Mary J. Blige, among them – keeps her creativity nourished by taking to the global stage and contributing her voice to Daughters of Soul, a musical mélange founded by comrade, Sandra St. Victor, and featuring Nona Hendryx, Joyce Kennedy as well as Indira and Simone, daughters of Chaka Khan and Nina Simone, respectively.

So, how does she hope her latest offering will be received?

“I don’t necessarily want to fit into what’s happening now,” she says of today’s marketplace, “but I want to stand with it, doing my own thing. I would really love it if people need the record. I put a lot of myself into this album, so I hope people can hear me and understand who I am.”

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Comment by Edie Antoinette on July 14, 2008 at 12:17pm
I just realized that she looks like our sweet bear! Look at her expression on the album cover...
Comment by Edie Antoinette on June 20, 2008 at 11:19am
I love that pic of the family! I have one like it that I need to find..and one with cheeks like that *remember?* Ha ha ah ah ha...I have always loved her father and her..and actually have gained insight into the mother too...Wow!

Thanks Sole!
Comment by Shelley "SoleMann" King on June 20, 2008 at 10:56am
This was great reading and it's nice to see her following in her father's footsteps. She is beautiful....BIG SMILE. And look Mama Edie, her head is just right....BWAAA HAHAHA

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Spotlight | Maze

  1. play Maze — 03 Feel That You're Feelin'
  2. play Maze — 04 Somebody Else's Arms
  3. play Maze — 04 Southern Girl
  4. play Maze — Can't Get Over You
  5. play Maze — Golden Time Of Day
  6. play Norman Brown — Night Drive
  7. play Norman Brown — Feeling
  8. play Norman Brown — Still
  9. play Miles Davis — miles 1
  10. play miles 2
  11. play miles 3
  12. play miles 4
  13. play miles 5
  14. play Marvin Gaye — I Met A Little Girl
  15. play Santana — 01 Singing Winds, Crying Beasts
  16. play Santana — 02 Black Magic Woman-Gypsy Queen
  17. play Mongo — 02. Afro Blue

The history of the Butlers/Raw Soul is dense, but for all of us music nerds, that's normal. It is not totally clear what year the Butlers actually formed but they released their first single in 1963 on Liberty Records. That single was "She Tried To Kiss Me" and another single followed on Guyden entitled "Lovable Girl." After the Guyden single the Butlers took a break not recording another record until the single "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" was released on the Phila label in 1966. The group also backed Charles Earland and Jean Wells on one Phila single ("I Know She Loves Me"). 

As you might be noticing, the Butlers were doing a fair amount of recording but not achieving much success. The group's recordings sold regionally but never had the promotion to make an impact on the national scene. After the single with Phila, the Butlers moved to the Fairmount label (part of the Cameo-Parkway family) and released a handful of singles, some being reissued singles of the past. The Butlers were with Fairmount for 1966-67 and then moved to Sassy Records. Sassy released the group's greatest single (in my opinion) "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" b/w "If That's What You Wanted." A copy of that 45 sold for just under $500 last summer on eBay. Even though that isn't that much in the world of record collecting--it's still a hefty sum. The Butlers released another single on Sassy ("She's Gone" b/w "Love Is Good") that appears to be even 
harder to come by then the "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" single.


The true history become a bit blurred here as the AMG biography states that the Butlers last record was released on C.R.S. in 1974 (". However, between 1971 and that single, Frankie Beverly formed a group called Raw Soul and released a number of singles. Some of the songs recorded by Beverly during this period are "While I'm Alone," "Open Up Your Heart," (both on the Gregor label) and "Color Blind." "Color Blind" was released by the Eldorado label and rerecorded by Maze. Beverly's big break came when Marvin Gaye asked Raw Soul to back him on a tour. Gaye helped Beverly/Raw Soul get a contract at Capitol. Beverly decided to take the group in a different direction, a name change occurred, and Maze was created. 

The above isn't the most complete history of Beverly but hopefully someone will know a way to get in touch with the man or his management because a comprehensive pre-Maze history needs to be done on Frankie Beverly (his real name is Howard, by the way). Below you'll find every Frankie Beverly (pre-Maze) song available to me right now ("Color Blind" will be up soon). 

If you have a song that is not included below, shoot it over to funkinsoulman (at) and it will go up in the next Frankie Beverly post (later this week--highlighting Maze). Also, if you have any more information please share your knowledge. The Butlers material has been comp-ed sporadically (usually imports) but the entire Maze catalog has been reissued and is available. 

Enjoy.  "She Kissed Me" (Fairmount, 1966 or 1967) 
 "I Want To Feel I'm Wanted" (not sure which label or year) "Laugh, Laugh, Laugh" (Phila, 1966) "Because Of My Heart" (Fairmount, 1966 or 1967)
 "Love (Your Pain Goes Deep)" (Sassy, 1967)
 "If That's What You Wanted" (Sassy, 1967)

Frankie Beverly is one of those cats that has lasting power. He started in the music business doing a tour with doo wop group the Silhouettes and then formed his own group called the Blenders. The Blenders never recorded a single, Beverly wouldn't appear on wax until forming the Butlers a few years later. Along with Beverly, the Butlers included Jack "Sonny" Nicholson, Joe Collins, John Fitch, and Talmadge Conway.

Beverly would later enjoy great success fronting Maze and Conway would become a
well-known penning Double Exposure's
"Ten Percent" and the Intruders' "Memories Are Here To Stay." 
 While Maze is a phenomenal group, Beverly's work before that group will always stand out as his best (imo).

The Butlers produced tunes that most Northern Soul fans would kill for and Raw Soul gave the funksters something to pursue. If, by chance, you know of a way to get in touch with Frankie Beverly or his management, please drop me an e-mail. It would be absolutely great to do an interview with him about his pre-Maze work. He's still playing out, most recently doing a New Year's Eve show in Atlanta.
:: Funkinsoulman ::

Power...Through Simplicity ♪♫♪



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