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LaBelle, Patti

LaBelle, Patti



Singer




In her long career, Patti LaBelle went from singing gospel to leading the wild funk group, LaBelle, whose biggest hit, "Lady Marmalade," is told from the point of view of a prostitute. Along the way LaBelle was a balladeer and a straight-soul queen like Aretha Franklin or Tina Turner. She even pursued a successful acting career, but throughout it all, her remarkable voice and her exuberant stage personality remained constant. With these assets, she definitively established herself as one of the great American pop divas.

Born Patricia Louise Holte, LaBelle grew up singing in the Beulah Baptist Church Choir of southwest Philadelphia, a city that remained her home throughout the years of her incredible commercial success. As a child she was shy, but she liked to sing and worked on her singing not only in the church choir but also at home in front of the mirror. While still a teenager she began singing with a friend, Cindy Birdsong. They called themselves the Ordettes, but a year later two more friends joined, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash, the quartet renamed themselves the BlueBelles. Patti took on her own stage name, LaBelle, in conjunction with her group's new name.

The four singers were together only about a year when they got the chance to record their first song. "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman" was a gold record and a number-one hit. Such immediate good fortune in the record industry must have made success seem easy, but no more number-one hits followed. In 1967, Bird-song left the group to join forces with Diana Ross and the Supremes. Meanwhile, the remaining members of the BlueBelles tried to revitalize their music and career.

The search for a new style was typical of a restlessness that characterized LaBelle. In 1969, she married Armstead Edwards, who took an active hand in her career. They had three children, and by working so closely together, they were able to balance personal and professional responsibilities and tensions. Still, after 30 years, the marriage ended in 2000.

In the early 1970s, the BlueBelles hooked up with British promoter Vicki Wickham, who at that time was best known for having produced the BBC rock show, Ready, Steady, Go! It was an unlikely partnership. Wickham knew little about soul or rhythm and blues, but she saw possibilities in the group that they did not see themselves. In She-Bop, author Lucy O'Brien related Wickham's memory of the period: "When Patti first asked me to manage them I was reluctant. The name Patti LaBelle and the BlueBelles sounded so old. I said, 'If we're going to do this, it's a new day. You've been together sixteen years, you can't get arrested. You can't wear those nice little frilly frocks and wigs, we've got to rethink it. You've got to make a statement, you're women, there's a lot to be said.'"

Wickham threw out the group's old name and recrafted "the girl group" into LaBelle, a provocative trio, wearing space age, daring clothes and tackling adult subjects such as prostitution, which had been off-limits to pop music before that. "Lady Marmalade" turned out to be their first number-one hit in 12 years. It was on an album called Nightbirds, which was also a big seller. The newly found success of the band was attributed partly to the greater freedom songwriter Nona Hendryx was given. Her energy and passion bolstered the group's live performances. They even became the first pop group ever to play the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.

Paradoxically, in 1977, less than three years after Nightbirds, the singers split up. Hendryx went deeper into the "glam" funk music of the time, and Sarah Dash started singing on the jazz nightclub circuit. Patti did not release another album until 1980, when she put out Released, later considered one of her best.

The next year LaBelle began an acting career, first appearing on television in guest spots and then in the movies, playing roles in A Soldier's Story and Beverly Hills Cop. She also appeared on Broadway in the gospel musical extravaganza, Your Arm's Too Short to Box with God. She continued roles on the television series, A Different World and Out All Night.


Still music was her passion and her claim to fame. After the breakup of the group LaBelle, she pursued a varied course, recording whatever interested her at the time, including even a couple of country songs and duets. In 1982, she had a number-one hit, "On My Own," sung with Michael MacDonald. While other singers of her generation became oldies acts, Patti LaBelle continued to push herself and innovate, although not without some trepidation about new trends in music. She told Geoffrey Himes of the Washington Post in a 1994 interview, "Music is not music anymore. There's a lot of talking and sampling, but not many creative juices flowing. The talent's there, but the talent's lazy."


In spite of those feelings, LaBelle continued creating new music. While many of the performers placed in the same categories as LaBelle performed as "oldies" acts, she endured throughout the 1990s with several albums and singles that had a good showing in urban contemporary music. She won a Grammy for her 1992 album Burnin', and went on to earn a star on the Hollywood walk of fame in 1993. She followed that with the successful Gems album in 1994 that included a top selling single, "The Right Kinda Lover."


LaBelle continued in the latter half of the decade with projects that took her to the studio as well as to the writing table. In 1997, she released her album, Flame, just after her first book, an autobiography, Don't Block the Blessings. At 52, LaBelle finally felt she had a story to tell. In the book, she recalled the pain of losing her sisters, each before they reached the age of 45. Her eldest sister, Vivian, died in 1975 at the age of 43 of lung cancer. Barbara died in 1982 at 40 of colon cancer and Jackie, the youngest, died of a brain tumor in 1988 at 43.


She commented to Jet on her grief and her divorce in 2000: "I'm a veteran of adversity," she explained. "You get through things when you have to. You never get over them, but you get through them. You try to make it as easy on everybody around you as possible because usually I think about the people around me before I think about myself."

For the Record . . .

Born Patricia Louise Holte on October 4, 1944, in Philadelphia, PA; daughter of Henry Holte; married Armstead Edwards, 1969 (separated 2000); children: Stanley, Dodd, Zuri.


Singer with the BlueBelles, 1961-70; lead singer with LaBelle, 1970-77; solo acting and singing career, 1970; released solo debut, Patti LaBelle, 1977; began acting career, 1981; published autobiography Don't Block the Blessings, 1997; published LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About, 1999; released When A Woman Loves, 2000; launched a clothing line, 2003.


Awards: Grammy Award, Best R&B Vocalist for Burnin', 1991; Award of Merit, Philadelphia Art Alliance, 1987; Entertainer of the Year, NAACP, 1986; Grammy Award, Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for Live! One Night Only, 1998; Songwriters Hall of Fame, Lifetime Achievement Award, 2003.


Addresses: Management Pattonium, Inc., P.O. Box 506, Wynnewood, PA 19096, phone: (610) 645-9034. Record company Def Jam Classics, 825 8th Ave. 29th Fl., New York, NY 10019. Publicist W&W Public Relations, 147 Union Ave. Ste. 1A, Middlesex, NJ 08846, phone: (732) 469-5955, fax: (732) 469-1455. Website Patti LaBelle Official Website: http://www.pattilabelle.com.


LaBelle's next release, Live! One Night Only, won another Grammy. She also finished her second book around this same time. This time she focused on her fame as a cook with LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About. LaBelle was a well-recognized chef among the likes of Oprah, Luther Vandross, Elton John, and Prince. In an interview with American Visions, she described the intent in her second book. She considered it a "thank-you to my family, my friends, and my fans."

A diabetic, LaBelle warned against including the extravagant recipes in everyday menus and enforced that warning by joining the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health in the fight against diabetes. This move demonstrated that, as always, she thought about others even as she prepared to offer thanks for a career of support. In 2000, LaBelle released When A Woman Loves, taking her in yet another direction. She remains a much-loved and respected entertainer. Shirley Henderson of the Chicago Tribune quoted Patti at a concert appearance during subarctic temperatures. "You know to come out in this weather I know you all must love me." Nobody disagreed.

LaBelle expanded her career once again and launched a clothing line on the Home Shopping Network (HSN) on November 6, 2003. LaBelle, involved in the creative process of the clothing line, took inspiration from her own wardrobe and stage clothes. Labelle has not let her new passion obstruct her musical career. She recently signed to Def Jam Classics and has begun working on her next album, which is expected to be released in February of 2004.



Selected discography

(With the BlueBelles) Sweethearts of the Apollo, Newton Music, 1963.

(With the BlueBelles) Over the Rainbow, Spy, 1967.

(With LaBelle) Labelle, Warner, 1971.

(With LaBelle) Moon Shadows, Warner, 1972.

(With LaBelle) Pressure Cookin', RCA, 1973.

(With LaBelle) Nightbirds, Epic, 1974.

(With LaBelle) Phoenix, Epic, 1975.

(With LaBelle) Chameleon, Epic, 1976.

Patti LaBelle, Sony, 1977.

I'm In Love Again, Capitol, 1984.

Miss Soul, MCA, 1986.

Winner in You, MCA, 1986.

Burnin', MCA, 1991.

Live!, MCA, 1992.

Gems, MCA, 1994.

Flame, MCA, 1997.

Live! One Night Only, MCA, 1998.

When A Woman Loves, MCA, 2000.



Selected writings

Don't Stop the Blessings, Riverhead, 1996.

LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About, Broadway, 1999.



Sources

Books


O'Brien, Lucy, She-Bop, Penguin, 1995.


Periodicals


Billboard, June 8, 2002; July 2, 2002; February 22, 2003; November 1, 2003.

Chicago Tribune, February 4, 1996, p. C1.

Jet, August 18, 1997; October 9, 2000; June 30, 2003.

Library Journal, April 1, 2002.

Newsweek, April 26, 1999.

People, November 11, 1996; May 19, 2003.

PR Newswire, June 17, 1999.

Washington Post, June 24, 1994, p. WW17; November 18, 1994, pp. F1, F3.


Online


"Patti LaBelle," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (December 20, 2003).

Patti LaBelle Official Website, http://www.pattilabelle.com (December 20, 2003).


Jim McDermott and Leslie Rochelle

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LaBelle, Patti 1944–

Patti LaBelle 1944

Singer, actress

At a Glance

Selected discography

Sources

Patti LaBelle is a magician; she is magic. In her long career, she went from singing gospel to leading the wild funk group, LaBelle, whose biggest hit, Lady Marmalade, is told from the point of the view of a prostitute. Along the way La-Belle was a balladeer and a straight-soul queen like Aretha Franklin or Tina Turner. She even pursued a successful acting career, but throughout her remarkable voice and her exuberant stage personality remained constant. With these assets, she definitively established herself as one of the great American pop divas.

Born Patricia Louise Holte, LaBelle grew up singing in the Beulah Baptist Church Choir of southwest Philadelphia, a city that remained her home throughout the years of her incredible commercial success. As a child she was shy, but she liked to sing and worked on her singing not only in the church choir but also at home in front of the mirror. While still a teenager she began singing with a friend, Cindy Birdsong. They called themselves the Ordettes, but a year later two more friends joined, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash, the quartet called themselves the BlueBelles. Patti took on her own stage name, LaBelle, in conjunction with her groups new name.

The four singers were together only about a year when they got the chance to record their first song. I Sold My Heart to the Junkman was a gold record and a number-one hit. Such immediate success in the record industry must have made success seem easy, but no more number-one hits followed. In 1967, Cindy Bird-song left the group to join forces with Diana Ross and the Supremes. Meanwhile, the remaining members of the BlueBelles tried to revitalize their music and career.

The search for a new style was typical of a restlessness that characterized Patti LaBelle. In 1969, she married Armstead Edwards, who took an active hand in her career. They had three children, and by working so closely together, they were able to balance personal and professional responsibilities and tensions. Still, after 30 years, the marriage ended in 2000.

In the early 1970s, the BlueBelles hooked up with a British promoter Vicki Wickham, who at that time was best known for having produced the BBC rock show, Ready, Steady, Go! It was an unlikely partnership. Wickham knew little about soul or rhythm n blues, but she saw possibilities in the group that they did not see themselves. In She-Bop, author Lucy OBrien related Wickhams memory of the period: When Patti first

At a Glance

Born Patricia Louise Holte on October 4, 1944, in Philadelphia, PA; daughter of Henry Holte; married Armstead Edwards, 1969 (separated 2000); children: Stanley, Dodd, Zuri. Religion: Baptist.

Career: Singer with the BlueBelles, 1961-70; lead singer with LaBelle, 1970-77; solo acting and singing career, 1970-. Appeared in films, A Soldiers Story and Beverly Hills Cop, both 1985; and in television films Sisters in the Name of Love and Unnatural Causes, both 1986; recurring role, A Different World, NBC; star of Out AH Night, 1992,

Awards: Grammy award for best Rhythm and Blues vocalist, Burning 1991; Award of Merit, Philadelphia Art Alliance, 1987; Entertainer of the Year, NAACP, 1986; four Grammy nominations and two Emmy nominations; Burning 1991; Grammy Award, Live! One Night Only, 1999.

Addresses: Office c/o MCA Records Inc., 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608.

asked me to manage them I was reluctant. The name Patti LaBelle and the BlueBelles sounded so old. I said, If were going to do this, its a new day. Youve been together sixteen years, you cant get arrested. You cant wear those nice little frilly frocks and wigs, weve got to rethink it. Youve got to make a statement, youre women, theres a lot to be said.

Wickham threw out the groups old name and recrafted the girl group into LaBelle, a provocative trio, wearing space age, daring clothes and tackling adult subjects such as prostitution, which had been off-limits to pop music before that. Lady Marmalade turned out to be their first number-one hit in 12 years. It was on an album called Nightbirds, which was also a big seller. The newly found success of the band was attributed partly to the greater freedom Nona Hendryx was given. She was one of the groups main songwriters and added a lot of energy and passion to their shows. They even became the first pop group ever to play the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.

Paradoxically, in 1977, less than three years after Nightbirds, the singers split up. Hendryx went deeper into the glam funk music of the time, and Sarah Dash started singing on the jazz nightclub circuit. Patti did not release another album until 1980, when she put out Released, later considered one of her best.

The next year Patti began an acting career, first appearing on television in guest spots and then in the movies, playing roles in A Soldiers Story and Beverly Hills Cop. She also appeared on Broadway in the gospel musical extravaganza, Your Arms Too Short to Box with God. She continued roles on the television series, A Different World and Out All Night.

Still music was her passion and her claim to fame. After the breakup of the group LaBelle, she pursued a varied course, recording whatever interested her at the time, including even a couple of country songs and duets. In 1982 she had a number-one hit, On My Own, sung with Michael MacDonald. While other singers of her generation became oldies acts, Patti LaBelle continued to push herself and innovate, although not without some trepidation about new trends in music. She told Geoffrey Himes of the Washington Post in a 1994 interview, Music is not music anymore. Theres a lot of talking and sampling, but not many creative juices flowing. The talents there, but the talents lazy.

In spite of those shortcomings, Patti was creating new music. While many of the performers placed in the same categories as LaBelle performed as oldies acts, she endured throughout the 1990s with several albums and singles that had a good showing in urban contemporary music. She won a Grammy for her 1992 album Burnin and went on to earn a star on the Hollywood walk of fame in 1993. She followed that with the successful Gems album in 1994 that included a top selling single, The Right Kinda Lover.

LaBelle continued in the latter half of the decade with projects that took her to the studio as well at the writing table. In 1997, she released her album, Flame, just after her first book, an autobiography, Dont Block the Blessings. At 52, LaBelle finally felt she had a story to tell. In the book, she recalled the pain of losing her sisters, each before they reached the age of 45. Her eldest sister, Vivian, died in 1975 at 43 of lung cancer. Barbara died in 1982 at 40 of colon cancer and Jackie, the youngest, died of a brain tumor in 1988 at 43.

She commented to Jet on the her grief and her divorce in 2000: Im a veteran of adversity, she explained. You get through things when you have to. You never get over them, but you get through them. You try to make it as easy on everybody around you as possible because usually I think about the people around me before I think about myself.

LaBelles next release, Live! One Night Only, won another Grammy and accompanied another book. This time she focused on her fame as a cook with LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About. LaBelle was a well-recognized chef among the likes of Oprah, Luther Vandross, Elton John, and Prince. In an interview with American Visions, she described the intent in her second book. She considered it a thank-you to my family, my friends, and my fans.

A diabetic, LaBelle warned against including the extravagant recipes in everyday menus and enforced that warning by joining the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health in the fight against diabetes. This move demonstrated that, as always, she thought about others even as she prepared to offer thanks for a career of support. In 2000, LaBelle released When A Woman Loves; taking her in yet another direction. She remained one of the great entertainers and summed up the feelings of her fan base during a 1994 concert. Shirley Henderson of the Chicago Tribune quoted Patti at a concert appearance during sub-artic temperatures. You know to come out in this weather I know you all must love me. Nobody disagreed.

Selected discography

I Sold My Heart to the Junkman, 1962.

Over the Rainbow, with the BlueBelles, 1967.

La Belle, with LaBelle, 1971.

Moon Shadows, with LaBelle, 1972.

Pressure Cookin, with LaBelle, 1974.

Nightbirds, with LaBelle, 1975.

Chameleon, with LaBelle, 1976.

Patti LaBelle, 1977.

Live at the Apollo, 1980.

Gonna Take a Miracle, 1982.

Im In Love Again, 1984.

Winner in You, 1986.

The Best of Patti LaBelle, 1993.

Patti, Be Yourself, Live, 1993.

Gems, 1994.

Flame, 1997.

Live! One Night Only, 1999.

When A Woman Loves, 2000. Selected writings

Dont Stop the Blessings, Riverhead Books, 1996.

LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About, Broadway Books, 1999.

Sources

Books

OBrien, Lucy, She-Bop, Penguin Books, 1995, pp. 273-274.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, February 4, 1996, p. C1.

Jet, August 18, 1997; October 9, 2000.

Newsweek, April 26, 1999.

People Weekly, November 11, 1996.

PR Newswire, June 17, 1999.

Washington Post, June 24, 1994, p. WW17; November 18, 1994, pp. F1, F3.

Jim McDermott and Leslie Rochelle

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LaBelle, Patti

Patti LaBelle

Singer, songwriter, actress

LaBelle Disbanded

Launched Successful Solo Career

Pursued Acting

Selected discography

Sources

Patti LaBelle is a musical veteran who started singing in pop groups as a teenager. As the leader of Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells (known briefly as the Blue Belles in the early 1960s), she rose to some notoriety with a few hit singles. That group was renamed LaBelle in 1971, and with flashy outfits and wild hairdos, its three members soared to fame with the racy single Lady Marmalade, which featured LaBelles trademark screams and lung-bursting notes. After the trios breakup, LaBelle launched her own solo career, which has turned her into a musical superstar.

LaBelle grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was part of the group the Ordettes while still a teenager. She formed Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells in 1961 with Nona Hendryx, Sarah Dash, and Cindy Birdsong (Birdsong left in 1967 to join the Supremes). The group had several hit singles, including I Sold My Heart to the Junkman, 1962, Danny Boy, 1964, and Youll Never Walk Alone, 1964. They achieved some level of success, but overall, they lacked the kind of gimmicky trademark they needed to distinguish them from the multitude of female groups that flourished in the sixties.

That was to change in 1970 when an Englishwoman named Vicki Wickham took over management of the group and suggested they change their name to LaBelle. The adventurous woman encouraged them to don wild costumes, adopt extreme hairstyles, and put on outrageous stage shows. The group soon earned a cult following and had the distinction of being the first black band to play at the Metropolitan Opera House. It was in this venue that they introduced their only number one hit, Lady Marmalade, a rousing screamer about a New Orleans hooker. One of LaBelles more outrageous tactics while touring with this group was to be lowered on guy wires to the stage for her opening.

Rumors circulated that LaBelle and manager Wickham were constantly fighting and that it was tearing the group apart. In an article in the Chicago Tribune, Wickham commented, We would fight, but we had great rapport. I remember in New York once when we were arguing about a song, Pat suddenly slammed the table and said, Thats it. I cant do it. Im going back to Philadelphia. A few minutes later, the bell rang and there was Patti. I asked if that meant we could do the song. She said, No, but we can fight about it some more.

LaBelle Disbanded

Eventually, however, the groups artistic differences caused them to split. LaBelle insisted that it was an amicable break. Each of us had these individual ideas

For the Record

Born Patricia Louise Holte, October 4, 1944, in Philadelphia, PA; daughter of Henry Holte; married Armstead Edwards, 1969; children: Zuri, Stanley Stocker, Dodd Stocker.

Sang in band the Ordettes as a teenager; formed group the Blue Belles, later called Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells, in the early 1960s, with Nona Hendryx, Sara Dash, and Cindy Birdsong (Birdsong left in 1967); renamed group LaBelle, 1971, and recorded hit single Lady Marmalade; disbanded, 1976, and began solo recording career. Starred in musical Your Arms Too Short to Box With God for two years; appeared in TV programs Sisters in the Name of Love with Dionne Warwick and Gladys Knight, HBO, July 18, 1986, A Different World, NBC-TV, and series Up All Night, 1992; played part in film A Soldiers Story, 1984. Owner of boutique La Belle Amis in Philadelphia.

Awards: Winner in You went platinum, 1986; NAACP awards, 1986 and 1992; Grammy Award, 1992, for best female vocal performance.

Addresses: Agent Armstead Edwards, PAZ Entertainment Management Co., 2041 Locust St., Philadelphia, PA 19103. Record company MCA Records, 70 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91602.

about how things should go, and we were no longer jelling as a group, she confessed in Ebony. If we had tried to stay together we would have been constantly clashing, and the audience would have noticed it. It was better for us... to break up the group while it was still popular. In 1976, the three women ended their 16-year-long collaboration.

Following the breakup, LaBelle was riddled with self-doubt. Although she wanted a solo career, she didnt know whether it was in the stars. I sat around thinking about all those tales about three strikes and youre out and the third time is the charm and, you know, all the negative things, she told Ebony. Although this lack of self-confidence didnt show in her disarming stage performances, it began to weigh her down.

LaBelles family also felt the strain of this change in her career, and she and her husband were not communicating well. After a tough decision to seek professional help, the couple began to mend their relationship. As a result, LaBelles husband, Armstead Edwards, began to help manage his wifes career. A big contract was negotiated with Epic Records, as well as a concert tour to get her solo career started. LaBelle related in Ebony that she knew she had to get back on that stage. I confronted all of that self-doubt and the other negative things.

Launched Successful Solo Career

LaBelles solo career was marked by performances to packed audiences. She began to tone down her costumes from her LaBelle days. Although she worked steadily, it was not until the 1986 album Winner in You that she attained truly mainstream appeal. That, along with New Attitude, a rousing tribute to self-determination included on the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack, put LaBelle in the spotlight once again. She was well on her way to a comeback enjoyed by such performers as Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner. In fact, LaBelle commented in Newsweek, When I saw Tina finally getting what she deserved, it did give me more confidence. I did think, maybe I can do that.

A stirring duet with ex-Doobie Brother Michael McDonald, On My Own, also won much airwave play. The contrast between Mr. McDonalds creamy soulfulness and Miss LaBelles rugged, spontaneous effusions help to create the sense of an actual personal drama unfolding, Stephen Holden noted in a New York Times review.

Pursued Acting

LaBelle was also taking on different roles on the stage, screen, and television. In 1982 she starred in the Broadway hit Your Arms Too Short to Box With God. A television special and roles in the feature film A Soldiers Story and the hit series A Different World. By 1992, she was cast as a club owner/landlady in her own television series, Up All Night. The singer continued to be known for her energetic concerts, which some likened to a revival meeting. And her wild hairdos were back, this time with an angular, lacquered, wigged-out look.

LaBelle had another breakthrough album with Burnin in 1991. The pop diva used her strong, nasal-edged voice to perfection on such songs as Feels Like Another One and Somebody Loves You Baby. To her complete surprise, LaBelle captured a Grammy Award for her work on the recordher first after being in the business for over 32 years. She dedicated the award to her mother and three sisters, all of whom had passed away.

Despite her rousing onstage performances, LaBelle is an admitted homebody who is more comfortable on a stage with five hundred people than one-on-one. Although I love my career, LaBelle explained in Essence, long ago I realized I couldnt be happy if I werent married, if I didnt have a man to take care of, a house to keep. The singer is admittedly a great cook and is often seen making her own dinners in hotels while she is on the road.

The two sides of LaBelle include the cozy homemaker and the complete showstopper. With an electrifying voice that seems to defy human boundaries, LaBelle continues to make her mark in the music world. I could never give up performing, LaBelle claimed in Essence. If I didnt sing, Id be a crazy woman. Onstage is the one place where I can open up, vent my hostility, cry out my pain. And that has freed me to be a better wife and mother.

Selected discography

With LaBelle

(As Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells) Dreamer, Atlantic, 1967.

LaBelle, Warner Brothers, 1971.

(With Laura Nyro) Gonna Take a Miracle, Columbia, 1971.

Moonshadow, Warner Brothers, 1972.

Pressure Cookin, RCA, 1973.

Nightbirds, Epic, 1974.

Phoenix, Epic, 1975.

Chameleon, Epic, 1976.

Solo Albums

Patti LaBelle, Columbia, 1977.

Tasty, Epic.

Its Alright with Me, Columbia, 1979.

Released, Columbia, 1980.

Best of Patti LaBelle, Columbia, 1981.

Winner in You, MCA, 1986.

Burnin, MCA, 1991.

Also contributed backup vocals to comedian Eddie Murphys single Yeah.

Sources

Chicago Tribune, March 16, 1986.

Ebony, September 1978; April 1986; March 1989; May 1991.

Entertainment Weekly, October 18, 1991; May 29, 1992.

Essence, October 1985; May 1990; March 1991.

Harpers, August 1986.

Jet, June 26, 1989; July 16, 1990; December 24, 1990; January 21, 1991.

Musician, July 1986.

Newsweek, July 21, 1986.

New York Times, July 6, 1986; November 7, 1991.

People, June 16, 1986; July 21, 1986.

Premiere, February 1989.

Rolling Stone, June 19, 1986.

Nancy Rampson

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"LaBelle, Patti." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 29 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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LaBelle, Patti 1944–

Patti LaBelle 1944

At a Glance

Selected discography

Sources

Singer, actress

Patti LaBelle is a magician, and the main body of her magic is she herself. Throughout her long career, she has gone from singing gospel to leading the wild funk group, LaBelle, whose biggest hit,Lady Marmalade, was told from the point of the view of a prostitute. Along the way she has taken stops as a balladeer and a straight-soul queen like Aretha Franklin or Tina Turner. She has even pursued a successful acting career, but throughout two constants have existedher remarkable voice and her exuberant stage personality. With these assets, she has definitively established herself as one of the great American pop divas.

At birth LaBelle was given the name Patricia Louise Holte, and she grew up singing in the Beulah Baptist Church Choir of southwest Philadelphia, a city that has remained her home throughout the years of her incredible commercial success. As a child she was shy, but she liked to sing and worked on her singing not only in the church choir but also at home in front of the mirror. While still a teenager she began singing with a friend, Cindy Birdsong. They called themselves the Ordettes, but a year later two more friends joined, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash, the quartet called themselves the BlueBelles. Patti took on her own stagename, LaBelle, in conjunction with her groups new name.

The four of them had been together only about a year when they got the chance to record their first song.I Sold My Heart to the Junkman, was a gold record and a numberone hit. Success in the record industry must have seemed like a piece of cake to the four young women, but there were no more numberone hits forthcoming; and, in 1967, Cindy Birdsong left the group to join forces with Diana Ross and the Suprêmes. Meanwhile, the remaining members of the BlueBelles tried to revitalize their music and career.

This search for a new style is typical of a restlessness that Patti LaBelle has shown throughout her career. In 1969, she married Armstead Edwards, who has taken an active hand in her career. They have three children together, and by working so closely together, they have been able to balance personal and professional responsibilities and tensions better than many other star acts.

In the early 1970s, the BlueBelles hooked up with a British promoter Vicki Wickham, who at that time was

At a Glance

Born Patricia Louise Holte, October 4, 1944, in Philadelphia, PA; daughter of Henry Holte; married Armstead Edwards, 1969; children: Stanley, Dodd, Zuri.Religion: Baptist.

Singer with the BlueBelles, 1961-70; lead singer with LaBelle, 1970-77; solo acting and singing career, 1970. Appeared in filmsA Soldiers Story andBeverly Hills Cop,both 1985; and in television filmsSisters in the Name of Love andUnnatural Causes,both 1986. Work in television series includes:A Different World, NBC; Out All Night,1992.

Selected awards: Grammy award for best Rhythm and Blues vocalist,Burnin, 1991; Award of Merit, Philadelphia Art Alliance, 1987; Entertainer of the Year, NAACP, 1986; four Grammy nominations and two Emmy nominations.

Addresses: Officedo MCA Records Inc., 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608.

best known for having produced the BBC rock show,Ready, Steady, Go! It was an unlikely partnership. Wickham knew little about soul or rhythm and blues, but she saw possibilities in the group that they did not see themselves. InShe-,author Lucy OBrien relates Wickhams reminiscence of the period:When Patti first asked me to manage them I was reluctant. The name Patti LaBelle and the BlueBelles sounded so old. I said, If were going to do this, its a new day. Youve been together 16 years, you cant get arrested. You cant wear those nice little frilly frocks and wigs, weve got to rethink it. Youve got to make a statement, youre women, theres a lot to be said.

Wickham threw out their old name and recrafted the girl group into LaBelle, a provocative trio, wearing space age, daring clothes and tackling adult subjects such as prostitution, which had been off-limits to pop music before that; but Lady Marmalade turned out to be their first number-one hit in 12 years. It was on an album calledNightbirds,which was also a big seller. The newly found success of the band could be attributed partly to the greater freedom Nona Hendryx was given. She was one of the groups main songwriters and added a lot of energy and passion to their shows. They even became the first pop group to ever play the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.

Paradoxically, in 1977, less than three years afterNightbirds,they split up. Hendryx went deeper into the glam funk music of the time, and Sarah Dash started singing on the jazz nightclub circuit. Patti did not release another album until 1980, when she put outReleased,now considered one of her best.

The next year Patti began an acting career, first appearing on television in guest spots and then moving onto the movies, playing roles inA Soldiers Story andBeverly Hills Cop.She also appeared on Broadway in the gospel musical extravaganza,Your Arms Too Short to Box with God.She has had continuing roles on the television series,A Different World andOut All Night.

Still it is music that continues to be her passion and her claim to fame. Since the breakup of the group LaBelle, she has pursued a varied course, recording whatever interests her at the time, including even a couple of country songs and duets. In 1982 she had a number-one hit, On My Own, sung with Michael MacDonald. While other singers of her generation have become oldies acts, Patti LaBelle has continued to push herself and innovate, although not without some trepidation about new trends in music. She told Geoffrey Himes of theWashington Post in a 1994 interview, Music is not music anymore. Theres a lot of talking and sampling, but not many creative juices flowing The talents there, but the talents lazy.

Despite her misgivings, Patti LaBelle remains one of the great entertainers. As Shirley Henderson of theChicago Tribune wrote of a recent show in the middle of winter, The next time Chicago experiences subarctic temperatures they should not hesitate to call in Patti LaBelle. The Grand Lady LaBelle, resplendent in a floor-length red gown took the chill away as she warmed up the crowd that braved 50 fahrenheit degrees below zero wind chills to hear the lady sing. LaBelle captured the audiences heart when she said to them, You know to come out in this weather I know you all must love me. Nobody disagreed.

Selected discography

Over the Rainbow,with the BlueBelles, 1967.

La Belle,with LaBelle, 1971.

MoonShadows,with LaBelle, 1972.

Pressure Cookiri,with LaBelle, 1974.

Nightbirds,with LaBelle, 1975.

Chameleon,with LaBelle, 1976.

Patti LaBelle,1977.

Live at the Apollo,1980.

Gonna Take a Miracle,1982.

Im In Love Again,1984.

Winner in You,1986.

The Best of Patti LaBelle,1993.

Patti, Be Yourself, Live,1993.

Gems,1994.

Sources

Books

OBrien, Lucy, She-Bop, Penguin Books, 1995, pp. 273-274.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune,February 4, 1996, p. CI.

Washington Post,June 24, 1994, p. WW17; November 18, 1994, pp. Fl, F3.

Jim McDermott

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