Grammy®-winning singers Lalah Hathaway and her late-father, Donny Hathaway, perform a new duet that spans over 50 years on a new version of “This Christmas” that is available today. The track seamlessly weaves stunning new vocals that were recently recorded by Lalah with instrumentation and previously unheard vocals by Donny from an unreleased demo of the song from 1970.
The unreleased 1970 demo of the timeless holiday classic that serves as the foundation for this new version features a more relaxed tempo and tone than the original, as it features Donny playing acoustic piano instead of the familiar electric heard on the original. Lalah sits in with her father as they trade verses and harmonize, their voices blending flawlessly on this heartfelt version of a modern yuletide classic.
“It’s really happening!!!! I am so honored to have my first recording with my dad be ‘This Christmas’!!! I hope this means as much to you as it means to my family!” says Lalah.
When Donny released the original version of “This Christmas” in 1970, he hoped it would be embraced as the first black Christmas carol, one authored and performed by African Americans. It took time, but the song eventually achieved a level of success that greatly exceeded Hathaway’s dreams. Today, “This Christmas” is the 30th most-performed holiday song of all time that continues to be heard everywhere each holiday season.
The story of how “This Christmas” became a celebrated yuletide anthem for black America is an interesting one. The tune originated in 1967 when Nadine McKinnor, a songwriting postal worker in Chicago, wrote the lyrics and melody during a historic blizzard. Three years later, her friend was decorating Hathaway’s home and office when it occurred to him that McKinnor should sing her songs for Hathaway. She did, and he immediately heard the potential in “This Christmas.”
In the fall of 1970, Hathaway composed the music and arrangement to “This Christmas” and entered the studio to record the song with some of the city’s top musicians, including members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who play strings on the track.
In early December, “This Christmas” was released as a non-album single on Atco Records. It peaked at #11 on Billboard’s Christmas Singles chart, but its major breakthrough was still more than 20 years away. The wheels for that success were set into motion in 1991, when “This Christmas” was added to a reissue of Atco’s 1968 Soul Christmas compilation. Since then, the song’s upbeat mix of blasting horns, surging strings and Hathaway’s sweet and soulful delivery has resonated with audiences all over the world.
More than 50 years after it debuted, “This Christmas” has been recorded by a diverse group of artists that includes Destiny’s Child, Usher, Mary J. Blige, Lady A, and more recently Pentatonix, Pink Sweat$, and Jess Glynne, just to name a few.