The daughter of Donny Hathaway, the late soul legend, Lalah Hathaway has forged her own way in music, using a lovely contralto to pursue various styles that mix R&B, jazz, and pop. She's also a pianist who won three Grammys in three years: best R&B performance for “Something” with Snarky Puppy in 2014; best traditional R&B performance for “Jesus Children” with Robert Glasper in 2015; and best traditional R&B performance for “Little Ghetto Boy” in 2016.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1968, Hathaway started on her musical path in high school. She recorded her eponymous first album, featuring the hit single “Heaven Only Knows,” while a student at Berklee in 1990. Her classic vocal style is often compared to that of her father. “Like my father, I want to leave a legacy of sound that makes people really feel something, whether it be happiness, sadness, grief, or heartache,” she said.
In 2015, Hathaway recorded a show at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, where her father had recorded decades earlier, and released it as the album Lalah Hathaway Live. She also has used social media to release music, including songs from her 2011 album, Where It All Begins, and to find collaborators for projects. In addition to all of this, Hathaway produces, writes songs, and collaborates with artists such as Mary J. Blige, Marcus Miller, and Esperanza Spalding. She has been active in the fight against breast cancer, noting that black women have especially high incidence rates.
In 2012, Hathaway returned to Berklee to perform for the opening of the Africana Studies Center. She spoke of the importance of Berklee dedicating concentrated study to the accomplishments of African American musicians, giving advice to students, especially women, to discover their own voice. “It’s been really important to me to figure out my path and be on it and stay on it and just keep moving forward,” she said. “The rest of it—the accolades and all of the other stuff—is a bonus.”