What could an 18-year-old possibly know about love? Well, if you were this 18-year-old, as I was in the summer of 1990, then you couldn’t tell me that I hadn’t fallen in it the previous summer with a fine-as-wine college football player during a visit to Maryland. And armed with my Lalah Hathaway cassette and the song “I’m Coming Back” as my theme music, I was coming to college a few miles away in Washington, DC to reclaim it and get “my man.” Unfortunately, my grand fantasy didn’t exactly materialize into reality. However, although our story didn’t have a happy ending, two things remained behind–that cassette and my love for Lalah Hathaway.
“I’m Coming Back” was actually the third single from Lalah’s stellar self-titled debut, so let me back up a little. Prior to that song becoming a staple on Quiet Storm playlists and a crowd favorite at Lalah’s live shows, 1990 saw the release of Lalah Hathaway with the lead single “Heaven Knows.” I first heard the song on the radio with the inevitable introduction that the new singer with the familiar last name was, in fact, Donny Hathaway‘s baby girl. Being the daughter of a music legend, Lalah had to show and prove with this album, and she did all that and then some. Her voice was just like that “summer’s breeze on a winter’s night” that she sang of in the song. Much like Anita Baker who also released new music that year, Lalah’s voice had depth and texture. At 21, she sounded like an old soul, but her music was still contemporary.
Although Lalah Hathaway was only a moderate success commercially, it contained so many classic songs. “Baby Don’t Cry,” the second single, being one. Written and produced by Angela Winbush, who you can clearly hear singing backup on the track, “Baby Don’t Cry” was another mid-tempo song to follow “Heaven Knows” with a funky fresh video to match featuring Lalah and a group of dancers who smoothed out the flyest hip-hop dance moves of the day. Another Winbush composition, the slow burner “I Got To Move On,” was another standout on the album, in addition to the final single “Something” and the sure-to-turn-a-frown-upside-down groove “Smile.”
Twenty years after her debut album, Lalah Hathaway is still going strong and is more popular than ever. This SoulBounce fave crosses genres from soul to jazz to gospel, is a current and past GRAMMY nominee, delights audiences worldwide at sold out concerts, has a new album scheduled for 2011 and is one of the funniest, most down to earth and kindest artists who I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I’m looking forward to the next 20 years–and beyond–of music from this legend in the making.
So whatever happened to that football player and I? In true new millennium cliche fashion, we found each other on Facebook 20 years after we first met and started a new chapter to our story. Who knows how it will end this time, but one thing I do know is that Lalah’s “I’m Coming Back” is still one of my favorite songs of all time.