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LaBelle, Patti (24th May 1944-Present)

She is a singer-songwriter and actress born Patricia Louis Holte in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who became a church choir member at the Beulah Baptist Church when she was ten years old.

After winning a talent contest at high school when she was sixteen she joined up as the lead singer with three of her friends from there in 1960 and started the group the Ordettes.  They became popular locally and after a couple of years changed  the line-up in 1962. They went to the owner of a local record label where, after hearing Patti singing “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman”, they were signed and their name was changed to the Blue Belles to promote that song. After being sued for performing a lip-synching version on American Bandstand by The Starlets, who had originally recorded the song, the case was settled out of court and the group’s name was changed to Patti Bell and the Blue Belles.

They recorded the song “Down the Aisle” in 1963 which became their first hit which was a crossover hit on the R&B and Billboard charts.  That same year they recorded their version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” which became their second hit single in 1964 along with another chart entry “Danny Boy”.

In 1965 their record label ceased so they signed with Atlantic Records in New York and recorded twelve singles which only saw minor chart success.  The label stopped working with the group in 1970. as did their manager, but after Dusty Springfield had spoken to the UK producer, Vicki Wickham, she agreed to manage them and changed their name to Labelle. This change of management saw them opening for The Who in 1971 at several venues of their US tour, singing backing on Laura Nyro’s Gonna Take a Miracle and, most importantly, releasing their debut album Labelle.

1972 saw the issue of Moon Shadow and the following year they were seen wearing bright sparkling make-up and silver suits after the influence of the glam rockers of the day.  They then released Pressure Cookin’ but after little chart success they signed to Epic Records which led to the 1974 hit album Nightbirds, which went on to win an RIAA gold award.  The album also contained their international chart topping song “Lady Marmalade” which topped the Billboard Hot 100, the Dutch Top 40 and the Canadian RPM singles chart.

Within a year they had featured on the front of Rolling Stone magazine and became the first rock and roll group to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House.  They continued by releasing their 1975 release Phoenix and Chameleon the following year, but this time they didn’t achieve the chart success they had previously seen.  Rifts in the group started to appear and they separated at the end of 1976.

Patti went out on her own and signed a contract with Epic Records as as a solo artist, with her manager being her husband Armstead Edwards, they divorced in the late 1990s and had a son Zuri Kye Edwards.

That same year she released her debut self-titled album which contained the songs “Dan Swit Me”, Joy to Have Your Love and “You Are My Friend” which all reached the charts.  Further songs followed from 1978’s Tasty, 1979’s It’s Alright With Me and 1980’s Released with “Release (The Tension)” and “I Don’t Go Shopping” seeing the most success.

She changed her record label to Philadelphia International Records after 4 albums with Epic and released the album The Spirit’s In It in 1981.  The following year she starred on Broadway in the musical Your Arms Too Short to Box with God and sang on Grover Washington’s “The Best Is Yet to Come” which earned her a Grammy nomination.

1983 saw her releasing I’m in Love Again which gave her the R&B chart topping single “If You Only Knew” and the R&B top ten’s “Love, Need and Want You” as the first chart songs as a solo artist in 1984.  That same year she went ack to acting and appeared in the film A Soldier’s Story and had a hit with Bobby Womack on “Love Has Finally Come at Last”.  She also appeared on the soundtrack of Beverly Hills Cop with the songs “New Attitude”, which became her first crossover hit, and “Stir It Up”.

In 1985 she appeared at Live Aid and on the TV special Motown Returns to the Apollo which led to her having her own TV special and releasing the video of that year’s tour.  She also changed record labels and went to MCA Records which led to the release of Winner In You in 1986 which topped the US pop chart and contained the international chart topper “On My Own” with Michael McDonald.  Also in 1986 she appeared with Dionne Warwick and Gladys Knight in the HBO special Sisters in the Name of Love.

Be Yourself was released in 1989 which contained the hit song “If You Asked Me To”.  That same year she took on a role in A Different Role where she played a recurring character and before long she was appearing in her own sitcom Out All Night.

Two years later in 1991 she recorded “Superwoman” with Dionne Warwick and Gladys Knight and released her gold rated album Burnin’ which contained three singles that reached the top five in the R&B chart.  This gained her the Grammy Award for the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 1992.

Gems, which went gold, was released in 1994 and saw it’s “The Right Kinda Lover” becoming a hit.  Her memoirs Don’t Block the Blessing was published in 1996 and the following year saw Flame being issued with Live! One Night Only appearing in 1998 and gaining a Grammy Award.

Going into the new millennium her When a Woman Loves was released in 2000 as her last MCA Records album.  After a few years she signed with Def Soul Classics and released 2004’s Timeless Journey followed by the covers album Classic Moments.  She was presented with the Legend Award at the World Music Awards that same year.

The Bungalo label released her The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle in 2006 which reached the top of Billboard’s gospel chart.  Alongside that she published her book Patti’s Pearls.  The following year Miss Patti’s Christmas came out and she re-united with the other members of Labelle to record the new album Back to Now.

She returned to Broadway in the musical Fela! after around twenty years where she had the starring role.  Fela! finished the run at the beginning of 2011 and in a few months time she  appeared in Oprah’s Farewell Spectacular Part 1.  Later in June 2011 she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BET Awards.

In 2014 she performed at the White House with artists such as Aretha Franklin in President Obama’s “Women of Soul: In Performance at the White House”.  She also went back to Broadway to work on the musical After Midnight and was announced as a guest in the fourth season of American Horror Story.  The following year she appeared in Dancing with the Stars.

2017 saw her releasing the jazz album Bel Hommage and 2 years later in 2019 she had a street named Patti Labelle Way in her honour in Philadelphia.   That same years she was a performer in The Masked Singer.

During her career to date she has performed on countless albums, other than her own, with just a few of the including A Body of Work by Paul Anka, The Look of Love: The Burt Bacharach Story by Burt Bacharach, Mary J. Blige & Friends by Mary J. Blige, Time, Love and Tenderness by Michael Bolton, Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA by Boyz II Men, Sittin’ Up in My Room by Brandy, Whole New World by Peabo Bryson, Genius & Friends by Ray Charles, Muscle of Love by Alice Cooper, A Touch of Music in the Night by Michael Crawford, In the Storm by El DeBarge,  Harold F. by Harold Faltermeyer, Fourplay by Fourplay, Nona by Nona Hendryx, The Preacher’s Son by Wyclef Jean, Gold and Icon by Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Voice of Michael McDonald by Michael McDonald, Back to the Grindstone by Ronnie Milsap, The Essential Laura Nyro by Laura Nyro, A Little More Magic by Teddy Pendergrass, A Man and a Half: The Best Of by Wilson Pickett, The Michael Schenker Story Live by Michael Schenker, Duets and Duets II by Frank Sinatra, Snoop Dogg Presents Bible of Love by Snoop Dogg, Living Proof by Sylvester, Bone-a-Fide by T-Bone, The Best Is Yet to Come by Grover Washington, The Poet II by Bobby Womack, Tommy Live by The Who along with many others and countless soundtracks and compilations.