Lalah takes stage with style, grace, opens August Wilson Center

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Songstress Lalah Hathaway treated Pittsburghers to a variety of music that has spanned her career when she graced the August Wilson African American Cultural Center stage, Sept 10-11.

Hathaway was in town to kick off the inaugural season of the center. The mission of the center is to serve and promote the history of African-Americans in western Pennsylvania.

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LALAH HATHAWAY

“I want to make music that lasts forever and I want people to pass my songs on to their kids,” said Hathaway, the daughter of late Donnie Hathaway and his wife, Eula. “I want to create something timeless. That’s what you need to create for you to be successful.”

And ever since she burst onto the jazz and soul scene in 1990, the ’locked beauty has been striving to do just that.

The world was introduced to her soulful sound when her debut album came out that year. That album produced her first hit, “Heaven Knows.”

Her sophomore album, “A Moment” was released four years later without much fanfare.

While most singers would have been daunted by the setback, Hathaway persevered. She lent her talent to Gerald Albright, Wayman Tisdale and Grover Washington Jr.

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CAROLYN PERTEETE opened for Hathaway.

In 1999, the Chicago native decided to release “The Song Lives On,” an album of duets with pianist Joe Sample. That album spawned the gems “When Your Life Was Low,” “When Your World Turns Blue” and her father’s classic, “For All We Know.”

In 2005 Hathaway graced the music world with “Outrun the Sky,” her first solo album in 10 years.

“I do the same thing that my family did,” said Hathaway, 26, when asked what made her want to follow in her famous father’s footsteps. “It was natural for me. They encouraged me to follow my dreams. I never decided to be a performer. Music was everywhere for me. There was the SOS Band, Dolly Parton, Chaka, Stevie Wonder, Journey, Cindy Lauper and the Human League. I’ve been influenced by a lot of different music and it’s made me a well- rounded musician.”

That was apparent in Hathaway’s 2008 Stax Records debut, “Self Portrait.” Hathaway spent most of the year touring the United States with Rahsaan Patterson, Angie Stone and Ledisi promoting the album.

“This is my most personal record and I’m very proud of it,” said Hathaway, who lives in Los Angeles. “It was soul record that was very eclectic and it talked about things that were freshest in my memory. I had my hands in every part of the album including the song writing, the production and the artwork. My hand was in everything,”

Hathaway is currently beginning work on a new album.

“I thought about making a family record, but most of my music is family music,” she said. “I’m thinking of maybe putting together a live record.”

Hathaway constantly receives inspiration from numerous sources. She plans on using some of that inspiration to put together her next release.

“Inspiration can come from anywhere: rain, weather, the trash truck passing by,” she laughed.

When Hathaway isn’t wowing audiences with her smoky voice in person or on disc, she can be found relaxing with friends.

“I’m always listening to music, I have hot dogs and friends over and I love video games and hanging out with my two dogs,” she said. Hathaway also finds time in her busy schedule to update her web site and interact with her fans through Twitter, Facebook and Myspace. “I’ve always been into computers and gadgets. You need that skill because everything’s constantly changing in the music business,” she said.

Hathaway is an Ambassador for the Susan G. Komen Cure Foundation campaign, Circle of Promise. The initiative encourages women of color to take charge of their health and get tested for breast cancer. She joins other celebrities Gabrielle Union and Rene Syler as ambassadors for the cause.

“I was eager to get involved because even though I haven’t had any personal experiences with the disease, it’s been all around me. I was eager to get involved because I want women to check their breasts and talk about their breasts. I’m a soldier telling people to check their breasts,” she said.

(For more information on Lalah Hathaway, visit her website at http://www.lalahhathaway.com.)

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