Born in New Jersey to a schoolteacher mother and computer programmer/system’s analyst father, it was obvious from a young age that Ms. Hill possessed extraordinary talents, abilities and propensity for creativity.
Walking and talking early, she would soon impress family and teachers alike with a seemingly quick mind and extended vocabulary. She excelled throughout school in all areas of academic, athletic, creative and extra-curricular activity. A venerable social butterfly, she used her talents and office as school president from 5th to 8th grade consecutively, to promote many concerns expectantly beyond her years like a school breakfast program intended for students her same age, who weren’t able to eat adequately enough before school. This streak of community service would continue into high-school and beyond, eventually taking her into Africa and other parts of the world building wells in communities who lacked sufficient means to water and raising money, as well as sending food and clothing to the needy; not as a part of some school or social club’s prerequisite, but from her own private desire to make tangible change. To backtrack for a moment, all of this of course would ultimately be supported by a love that began as early as she can remember, her love of music—which would result in her becoming known throughout the world.
Ms. Hill grew up in a home where the sound of music was a household staple. She very early, probably in the second or third grade, discovered a treasure chest’s worth of 45 singles that belonged to her mother and father that chronicled the lives and careers of some of the world’s most renowned and soulfully successful musicians-from the offerings of Motown, Staxx, Atlantic, Capitol and Mercury Records, and the like, who were at the time recording ‘the greats’ like Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, Miles Davis, Little Anthony and the imperials, The Dreamlovers, Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson Five, The Last Poets, Aretha Franklin, Jackie Wilson, Doug and Jean Carne, Procol Harem, Santana, Alice Coltrane, The Delfonics, The Stylistics, and a plethora of other world changing artists who were influencing music and recreating the world. This love affair with music seemingly outside of her generational trajectory would extend in many different ways from jazz, to soul, to reggae, to rock to classical. An eclectic appreciation and voracious appetite for good music trans-genre, Ms. Hill would establish her own categories that incorporated all types of unique and incredible sounds from both the past and the contemporaneous environment of her youth—this obviously included what was then known as hip-hop and R&B as well, but Puccini didn’t escape her either. She was an interesting and powerful hybrid of musical influences (and stylistic mastery). These influences would dramatically shape her own approach to self-expression.
Ms. Hill sang and deeply appreciated music at a young age, known for being very animated, she also acted, danced and enjoyed performance art of various kinds. She spent her formative years acting in plays and being cast in television commercials, as well as the daytime drama ‘As the World Turns’, Steven Soderbergh’s ‘King of the Hill’, and ‘Sister Act II’ with Whoopi Goldberg. Ironically all of this was done while she was still a full-time student. After graduating high school with stellar grades, she attended Columbia University in New York while a member of the then up and coming musical group the Fugees. Ms. Hill was a great academician, but her unique gifts, interest and pursuits would take her in the direction of profound experience and great accomplishment not just in the classroom, but also beyond it. This of course would not negatively alter her life-long love of learning, invention and acquiring knowledge, but would enhance it. She often envisioned herself as able to very naturally make the kind of great contributions that often come from people with great minds and the passion and discipline required in order to bring great things into fruition. She would establish a reputation in the music world as the lone female member of The Fugees, whose record sales would make them the second biggest selling R&B act worldwide since Michael Jackson. She launched her solo career with the release of the commercially successful and critically acclaimed album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The recording earned a record breaking five Grammy Awards.