It is no easy achievement living up to a show business name, especially if that name is legendary. R&B singers across the board can attest to the name “Hathaway” as being one of the genres most recognizable and well-respected. Troubled as his life may have been here on this earth, Donny Hathaway left behind a remarkable legacy as one of the most gifted singer/songwriters to ever grace the mic. A child prodigy, he studied music at Howard University and became a sought-after musician and composer. Music greats Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin, Jerry Butler and Roberta Flack were just a few who were blessed to experience Donny’s undeniable talent.
This cannot be an easy shadow to emerge from, but Donnys eldest daughter Lalah continues to make her way, following in her father’s footsteps as a true musician, singer and songwriter. Though she was officially introduced to us in 1990 with her self-titled album, Ms. Hathaway has been recently thrust back into the musical forefront as a standout on the tribute album to Luther Vandross, Forever, For Always, For Luther. With her sultry rendition of the Luther classic, “Forever, For Always, For Love”, Lalah proves that she has the musical DNA to go along with her famous surname.
Though she may not be your standard Top 100 artist, Lalah believes technology to be music’s “revolution,” providing a new alternative to expose savvy young people to her artistry. We had the pleasure to speak with Ms. Hathaway about her views while she was in New York City, in between tour dates with Eric Benet.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Sometimes having a famous parent can be seen as a blessing and other times, somewhat of a curse. What was your experience growing up with such a famous father?
Lalah Hathaway: Well, growing up I don’t know if I realized he was such a famous father. It didn’t really dawn on me until I got to college. All my life people tried to get close to me because of that, but it was never anything that I was really conscious of, or really aware of, until college – so it never really affected me in that way as a kid.
AHHA: From your point of view, what do you see in the music scene today different from the music scene of your dad’s generation?
Lalah: Probably a conscience; I don’t think there’s much of a conscience in the music scene today. I don’t think there’s much of a collective voice. To me, Black music in this country sort of always told a story of where we were as a people, and as Americans, and I don’t think really we’re talking about much right now.
AHHA: Who do you see as today’s best and brightest musical talents? Who do you see as having that “it” factor?
Lalah: I don’t know. I don’t see a lot of “it.” I know a lot of people that, like myself, are kind of in the music industry, but not so much inside the music industry – we’re all out there doing records. I just went to go see my friend Rachelle Farrell last night incredible. Rashaan Patterson – I love; a lot of independent artists that I think are really talented that don’t get the showcase that a lot of the artists get.
AHHA: Who would you say are some of your musical influences?
Lalah: Gosh, there’s so many. I grew up as a kid with the radio having such a large landscape of music. Being able to have access to all this music like Steely Dan, Chaka, Atlantic Starr all these bands, all these great singers and songwriters: Carole King, Minnie Riperton, Stevie Wonder, The Barkays, D-Train there was just so much stuff growing up not to mention so many genres, so much like The Little River Band, Foreigner, Journey and Rush rock bands I grew up with. I grew up with a lot of music, and I’m thankful for that because it really did contribute to who I am right now.
AHHA: Describe your musical style and what makes you different from other vocalists.
Lalah: I don’t describe my style because that would be silly. If you’ve ever heard it, you have a description of it. The only thing that makes me different is that I’m me. Part of the problem in today’s music is that everybody kind of has a description for what they are and it matches everything else. So what makes me different is that I’m just me; no one can be me, I can’t be them. I’m just a singular person; doesn’t mean that I’m better than anybody else, it’s just me. I don’t have any competition in the area of me. I don’t describe the style because it should be like poetry. When you go see a movie, or read a poem or a book, you get a totally different interpretation than the person next to you. So for me to tell you what it is seems silly.
AHHA: The song Forever, For Always, For Love threw you back into the musical spotlight. What has the success of that experience been like for you?
Lalah: It’s been wonderful. I do a lot of covers and sometimes it kind of becomes a drag, because the record company decides you gotta have a cover ya know, they have these formulas on how records are supposed to work. I do a lot of covers and my intent is to pay homage to the version of it that is the real version but to make a new standard out of it. I feel like we were able to do that and really, it was just a love letter to Luther because I grew up listening to so much of his music and forming me as a musician. I’m extremely proud to have it as part of the body of my work, and I’m really happy that it came out before he left here so he could hear it.
AHHA: What has been your favorite body of work thus far?
Lalah: I don’t have a favorite – it’s kind of like asking who’s your favorite singer. It’s just a different page; it changes everyday. I have so many records, not necessarily solo records I have three or four solo records a hundred other records so it’s all part and partial of the body of my work. Like a page in a book.
AHHA: If you weren’t singing, what would you be doing with your life?
Lalah: That’s a good question. You know what I would like to be doing with my life if I wasn’t singing? I would like to be a comedian. I think that’s like the best thing you could do. If I could do it with the same level of proficiency and confidence that I can do music I would absolutely do it.
AHHA: What’s next for you?
Lalah: I’m doing a song on a project that’s a tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire – I’m really excited about that. Working on conceptualizing sort of what the next record is gonna be for me. Traveling and touring, writing, I just moved so I’m getting my house together and potty training my dog. [laughs]