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The Tribe Band Are Soaking Up the Holiday Spirit in “This Christmas”

The Los Angeles-based collective of musicians, The Tribe Band, teams up with an all-star cast of seasoned recording artists for their rendition of Donny Hathaway's 1970 Christmas hit, "This Christmas."

The Tribe Band comprises a collective of talented musicians. This time around, they're joined by the likes of Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Richard Marx, Melissa Manchester, Lamont Dozier, Jr., Freda Payne, Frank McComb, Florence LaRue, and more to pay homage to the first Christmas song written and recorded by an African American, the late great Donny Hathaway.

The song's music video is reminiscent of charity recordings in the 1980s, like "(Feed The World) Do they Know It's Christmas Time" and "We Are The World." The Tribe Band's new rendition of "This Christmas" features arrangements from singer-songwriter, vocal coach, and producer Ken Stacey (Elton John, Michael Jackson, Ambrosia).

Diving into the song's jolly visual, each artist takes their turn stepping up the microphone, giving it their all with immense soul and passion. Shoutout to the incomparable vocal stylings of Michael McDonald, locking in our undivided attention and leading us to the uplifting hook effortlessly. The song's harmonies, instrumentation, and infectious rhythm are everything we look for in a Christmas song, and this rendition of a classic hit is no exception.

The music video brings together celebrated musicians to pay tribute to Hathaway's classic hit and donate all proceeds from the song to the Donny Hathaway Legacy Project. Founded by his youngest daughter, Donnita Hathaway, this nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing mental health resources for those in need.

Do yourself (and others) a favor and keep "This Christmas" on repeat this holiday season. Find The Tribe Band's new rendition of this holiday anthem on YouTube and all digital streaming platforms.

Welcome to BuzzMusic, The Tribe Band. Congratulations on releasing your new rendition of Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas." What inspired your group to choose this particular song to cover?

The idea of choosing this specific song, Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” as this year’s recording project came from our executive producer and founder of The Tribe, Kevin Wachs. Kevin is a visionary. He is also someone with a big heart who enjoys making a difference in the world, and that’s often connected to something musical. He and his wife, Mare, founded the Get Together Foundation in 2001, a 501(c)(3) committed to helping the community be a better place, and both of them stand for this daily through various programs, outreach, etc. A few months back, Kevin decided it was time for The Tribe to release another single and came up with the idea of remaking “This Christmas” – the perfect song for the holiday season. He began to search for a charity organization that might be connected to Donny. He discovered the Donny Hathaway Legacy Project, founded by Donny's daughter Donnita, which aids people suffering from mental illness. This seemed to be the logical organization to support the holidays. The Get Together Foundation typically raises money to help children and families in need, but that includes crisis relief. So, the idea of helping people with mental illness during the holiday season felt right, and he decided to have our version of the song support the DHLP. Kevin contacted Donnita about our idea, and she loved it. Kevin asked singer, producer, and vocal coach Ken Stacey (Ambrosia, Elton John, Michael Jackson) -- who is a lover of Donny’s music -- to create an arrangement of the song for The Tribe to record and one in which we could proudly invite some celebrity singers to participate. Ken has been featured with The Tribe for several years and has sung Donny’s version with us in past shows. He gladly accepted! Everything seemed to come together at the same time.

How did your group find featured musicians and vocalists for "This Christmas"? Have you worked with all of these artists before?

Kevin Wachs is also the long-time publisher of Rock Cellar Magazine. We have ongoing relationships with many recording artists and their publicity teams, so it seemed logical to reach out to some local celebrity artists who know us and are also familiar with the Get Together Foundation. (In 2020, we put on a 10-hour all-star, live-streamed telethon for the L.A. City Coronavirus Relief Fund. We got a lot of celebrity support for this, which raised a lot of money and caught some attention.) Kevin had recently been at a benefit event in Santa Barbara, where he had a chance to speak to Michael McDonald about our project in person, and he was totally on board. In addition, Ken Stacey happens to be Kenny Loggins’ vocal coach. When he mentioned the project to Kenny, he loved the idea of participating, so that one was pretty easy! Ken went to Santa Barbara to record Kenny and Michael at their favorite SB studio. Ken also invited his friend Richard Marx to join the project, and he, too, offered his voice. I reached several other artists who appeared, including Melissa Manchester, Freda Payne, Florence LaRue, and Lamont Dozier, Jr., who had been part of our Tribe until he relocated to Las Vegas a few years back. We were very fortunate that he was in town during the time we were recording and was able to participate. Donnita Hathaway suggested singer Frank McComb and mentioned how much he sounds like her father. She was right! They were all amazing, as were all the Tribe singers who participated in the project.

What was your experience working alongside celebrated musicians, artists, and producers when recreating "This Christmas"? What was that massive collaboration like?

Due to the nature of the project and having so many different voices, we scheduled the recording sessions over a few weeks at everyone’s convenience. As mentioned, Kenny and Michael recorded in Santa Barbara, where they live. Everyone else came to Rock Cellar Studios. By the way, The Tribe is accustomed to having celebrity talent participate in our projects. We have released other music videos, including “Get Together” with Jesse Colin Young (who originally made the song famous with the Youngbloods); our version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” which, like this project, featured different singers singing different lines of the song and included a founding member of The Supremes, the late great Mary Wilson, Micky Dolenz, Rosemary Butler, Carnie Wilson, Debbi Peterson (The Bangles), Freebo, The Honeys, and more. Also, over the last eight years, we’ve performed more than a dozen live all-star charity concert events for the Get Together Foundation and have been joined on stage by David Crosby, Al Jardine, Micky Dolenz, Jesse Colin Young, Mary Wilson, Rob Morrow, Billy Vera, Carnie Wilson, Peter Asher, Derek Smalls (aka Harry Shearer), Florence LaRue (The 5th Dimension), Marcella Detroit (Eric Clapton), Steve Ferrone (drummer from Tom Petty band), Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, Waddy Wachtel (Stevie Nicks band), (members of the Strawberry Alarm Clock), and Ambrosia. And I’ll also add that the level of talented singers and instrumentalists within The Tribe collective is astounding.

How did you want listeners and viewers to feel after watching the soulful and spirited music video for "This Christmas?”

I think this one is pretty obvious. We want people to feel moved enough to make a donation to a good cause. The Donny Hathaway Legacy Project does good work. For those who don’t know, Donny suffered from severe mental illness that led to his death at the young age of 33. We set up a direct donation link and QR code within the video and mentioned it in all the promotional text connected to the song and the video so that people who can make a donation or any amount know their contribution will make a difference for someone during this holiday season.

What's next for you?

We did our annual holiday benefit concert for the Get Together Foundation at Bogies in Westlake Village. We performed a mix of holiday tunes and songs about peace, love & understanding. Now we’re planning our schedule for 2023. The best way to know what we have going on is to join our mailing list, follow our social media, and check our website. Last year we launched a show called One-Hit Wonders which we performed with a rotating cast all summer, and we anticipate being able to do more of the same at the local summer concert series next summer. I’m sure there will be some other fun events in between, too.


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