daughter of famed soul singer donny hathaway and classically-trained musician eulaulah hathaway, lalah was born in chicago and raised on the sounds of chaka khan and stevie wonder. her name, which means "music of the night" in arabic, serves as much as a harbinger of her talent as her lineage. but lalah is quick to point out, "my parents didn't teach me in a clinical sense. my sister and i took lessons like other kids and we sang at home along with records." witness to her father's collaborations with roberta flack, throughout her childhood, is it any wonder that lalah would go on to continue her father's legacy of soulful sounds with a decided jazz feel? but the older of the two hathaway girls did receive some formal vocal training, in the form of education received from both the chicago acadIy of the performing arts and boston's berklee college of music.
on her 1990 self-titled debut, lalah hathaway exposed the music world to a voice that seIed to capture and resurrect the smokey jazz clubs of the 1940s. unsuccessful with the public at large, lalah hathaway yielded the critically-acclaimed "heaven knows" and "i'm coming back", establishing her, within the industry, as mature and talented artist worthy of attention. her second release, a moment, although filled with awe-inspiring ballads, continued her unfortunate tradition of producing lackluster sales. making her debut as songwriter/producer, hathaway claims five of the album's songs as her own. most notable, perhaps, is the woeful "so they say" which takes an emotional look at silver-lining axioms.
hathaway explains that selection of material for her albums is a very deliberate process. with vocal style and ability that makes any song she sings her own, hathaway is aware that any song recorded will stay with her a lifetime. "i'm convinced that my whole life is either a gig or a rehearsal," she chides, "it's like one big song or one very extended vamp. that's why i make records to be able to interpret the material live. so, for me, a song has got to be really somethingeither really funky, really folksy or have a really beautiful lyric or melody." clearly, on a moment, she's hit her mark as each of the songs is truly "something".
in 1999, hathaway teamed up with famed jazz pioneer, joe sample, for the song lives onon which hathaway adds her lush vocals to seven of the album's eleven tracks. samplewho has worked with such divine divas as nancy wilson and vesta williams met hathaway during a 1992 concert tour of japan and quickly established an equal level of respect and admiration for her as he had for her father. though fans may lalah hathaway best for her r&b stylings, college friendships provided her with jazz experience enough to help propel the song lives on to number two on the jazz charts. "i got in with a group of guys who were really good players and [jazz] purists," hathaway recalls, "they were really rigid and kind of geeky. their mantra was: you listen to bird and miles twice a day and you'd learn something about music. i really learned a lot from those guys."
"growing up," lalah explains, "it never really occurred to us that our father was a genius." now a woman, and a performer in her own right, lalah has realized her oversight and is doing her best to live up to her father's reputation as a gifted musician. at the same time, however, she is forging her own path and revitalizing a standard of musicianship many thought had long since passed away. though not widely recognized as such by public that is both easily impressed and fickle, lalah hathaway is truly a diva.