Patti LaBelle's star, which first rose in the
1960s, shines ever brightly in the 1990s. The 1993 album, "Patti
LaBelle LIVE!" yielded a 1994 Grammy nomination (her eighth)
for the single "All Right Now."
The 1994 excitement came on the heels of a
triumphant 1993. Patti won an American Music Award for Favorite
R&B Female Artist, which now stands alongside her Grammy Award
for her hit album, "Burnin'."
Her "Still Patti" concert tour was a smash across the
U.S. and Canada and is now available on home video. She joined
Aretha Franklin and a host of other luminaries in a 40th
birthday salute to Oprah Winfrey, and brought down the house in a
televised Christmas concert performed for President and Mrs. Clinton
Patti's busy year continued with fellow superstars
Bolton and Paula Abdul on the Disney Channel's
special televised concert, "For the Children,"
benefiting the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, duet recordings with
Michael Crawford, and a reunion with her "Sisters
in the Name of Love" co-stars
Gladys Knight and
Dionne Warwick to record "Superwoman" for
Knight's '93 album a collaboration that snared Grammy
nominations for the three powerhouse vocalists. Patti also did double
duty for NBC, starring in her own television series, "Out All
Night" (now seen regularly on BET) and continuing her
recurring role on the hit series "A Different World,"
right up until its last episode. And she returned to her church roots
in the critically acclaimed PBS special, "Going Home to Gospel
With Patti LaBelle," a program that is now an encore
highlight of public television fundraising drives around the country.
But the honor Patti holds most dear to her heart is
her inclusion on the fabled Hollywood Boulevard "Walk of
Fame." In March 1993, in front of thousands of fans, actress
Whoopi Goldberg and "Mayor of Hollywood" Johnny Grant hosted
the ceremony, during which her gold star rightfully took its place
alongside the entertainment world's other legendary greats.
Perhaps more than any other contemporary artist, the
singular Patti LaBelle has been true to herself in every varied
phase of her musical career. In the 1960s, she led the superstar
"girl group" Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells; in the
'70s, she was the driving force of rock's first all female band, LaBelle;
and in the '80s, her talent as a solo artist dominated the music
scene. Patti LaBelle has had numerous hits from "Down the
Aisle" and "Danny Boy" with the Bluebells, to
"Lady Marmalade" and "The Revolution Will Not Be
Televised" with LaBelle, to her solo triumphs, "New
Attitude," "Stir It Up," "On My Own" and
"Somebody Loves You Baby."
Patti was raised in the melting pot of Southwest
Philly. Although affected by her parents' separation when she was only
12, Patti lived a happy, wholesome teenage life running track,
singing in the glee club and acting in plays at John Bartram High
School. But her extraordinary musical gift emerged most clearly in the
Beulah Baptist Church Choir, where she remained a soloist even after
embarking on a professional career.
Patti was still only a teenager when she and Cindy
Birdsong (later a member of
The Supremes) sang with the Ordettes. When
two girls left the group, Nona Hendrix and
Sarah Dash signed on and
Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells was born. This was in 1961. By the
following year, the girls had their first multimillion seller, "I
Sold My Heart to the Junkman." With other hits, including
"All Or Nothing" and "You'll Never Walk Alone,"
the Bluebells accrued a devoted following and a status as one of the
foremost girl groups of the era.
Then in the late '60s, when British rock was
eclipsing the homegrown girl-group, California and Motown sounds in
the U.S., the Bluebells toured England, playing to wildly enthusiastic
audiences. But a musical revolution had obviously taken place
worldwide. So when British producer Vicki Wickham, impressed by the
Bluebells' still-untapped talents, offered to effect a stylistic
transformation, the group consented. The result was LaBelle, a
trio of massive musical power and political sensibility that was
consistently ahead of its time.
The trend-setting singer/songwriter Laura Nyro, long
a Bluebells fan, was even more impressed by LaBelle and
recorded her landmark album, "It's
Gonna Take A Miracle," with the group. The recording itself
was a miracle, created jam-session style during two intense weeks in a
small Philadelphia studio. Shortly thereafter Warner Brothers released
the group's first albums, "LaBelle"
and "Moon Shadow." "Pressure Cookin'"
soon followed on RCA. But it was "Nightbirds,"
LaBelle's first Epic album, that sent the group soaring into the
superstar stratosphere, largely on the strength of "Lady
Marmalade" ("Voulez-Vous Couchez Avec Moi Ce Soir?")
which became a disco anthem of the '70s.
Extensive tours and two more popular albums, "Phoenix"
followed but the burden of being musical trailblazers
eventually became too great. "Rocked and rolled out," as
Patti describes it, the group disbanded on good terms in 1976.
In the early '80s, mega-hit popularity on the
musical charts inexplicably eluded her despite marvelous single
releases like "The Best Is Yet to Come" (with Grover
Washington, Jr.), "Love Has Finally Come at Last" (with
Bobby Womack) and "If You Only Knew." Superstardom anointed
her again, however, with two hits from the Beverly Hills Cop
soundtrack: "New Attitude" and "Stir It Up."
Those hits were followed by her 1985 debut album for
MCA Records, "Winner
In You," which went platinum thanks to sizzlers like "On
My Own" (with
Michael McDonald), "Oh, People,"
"Kiss Away the Pain" and "Something Special." She
hushed, then whipped the crowd into a frenzy at Live Aid; left the
audience speechless on NBC-TV's Emmy-winning "Motown Salutes
the Apollo"; was one of the first artists (at Coretta King's
request) to musically commemorate the inaugural celebration of the
Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday; rivaled Miss Liberty herself
at the closing ceremonies of the Statue of Liberty celebrations;
starred in her own NBC TV special (with guests
the country on several national tours; knocked 'em dead in Europe and
Japan; made two more movies, Unnatural Causes (with Alfred
Woodard and John Ritter) and Sing (with Lorraine Bracco and
Louise Lasser). In the late '80s and early '90s, a triumphant Patti
continued to release chart-topping albums, including "Be
Yourself" and "This
As a musical artist, Patti LaBelle remains
unrivaled and unstoppable.