Patricia Louise Holte-Edwards
(born May 24, 1944), better known under the stage name Patti LaBelle
, is a renowned Grammy Award-winning American singer, author, and actress who has spent over 50 years in the music industry. LaBelle spent 16 years as lead singer of Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, who changed their name to Labelle in the early 1970s and released the iconic disco song "Lady Marmalade".LaBelle started her solo career shortly after the group disbanded in 1977 and crossed over to pop music with "On My Own", "If You Asked Me To", "Stir It Up", and "New Attitude". She has also recorded R&B ballads such as "You Are My Friend", "If Only You Knew", and "Love, Need and Want You".LaBelle possesses the vocal range of a soprano. Due to her musical legacy and influence, she has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Apollo Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters' Hall of Fame. The World Music Awards presented her with the prestigious Legend Award. LaBelle has sold over 50 million records worldwide.Early careerNot long after that, the group made a hit single, "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman", though the song was recorded by another girl group, the Chicago-based The Starlets. This led to a lawsuit by a manager of the group and its record label boss, later resulting in the group winning $5,000 in damages. "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman" eventually reached the Billboard'
top 20. Despite this credited success, the group could not follow up with any other hit. The Blue Belles supported themselves by constantly touring including an appearance at the Apollo Theater.In 1963 a record label executive sued Harold Robinson for use of the name "Blue Belles", since another group was using the name. As a result, Robinson gave Holte the nickname, Patti La Belle (La Belle
is French for "the beautiful one") and the group's name was altered to "Patti La Belle and Her Blue Belles". A year later, the group left Newtown switching over to Cameo-Parkway Records. Their first hit for Cameo-Parkway was the top-40 hit "Down the Aisle (The Wedding Song)". Their follow-ups included "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "Danny Boy".In 1965 Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegun signed the group to the label, working with the group for a year. The group issued their first studio album (as Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles) entitled Somewhere Over the Rainbow
in 1966. While they had a modest pop-charted hit with "All or Nothing" and its b-side, a pop cover of Judy Garland's "Over The Rainbow", the group was not as successful as the label predicted. In 1967, their second release, Dreamer
, issued two singles, "Take Me For A Little While" and the Curtis Mayfield standard "I'm Still Waiting". In the middle of touring for that album, Cindy Birdsong suddenly left the group to join The Supremes, replacing Florence Ballard. The remaining trio of LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash struggled with subsequent recordings and by 1970, Atlantic had dropped the group from its roster, as had longtime manager Bernard Montague, who had by now focused his full energy on more successful Philly groups such as The Delfonics and The Stylistics.After almost signing a management deal with Frankie Crocker and Herb Hamlett, the group settled on British manager Vicki Wickham (producer of the UK pop show Ready, Steady, Go!
) after Dusty Springfield had mentioned signing them. Wickham advised the group to perform in London and work on a brand new image and sound. LaBelle would later have disagreements with Wickham over changes often saying in interviews that she liked things the way they were. This led to some musical disagreements between LaBelle and Nona Hendryx.
In late 1970, the group returned to the United States changing their name to Labelle and signing a contract with MCA imprint, Track Records. Wickham then had the group open for rock group The Who. In 1971 the group released their debut, Labelle
. The record mixed harder-edged soul music with rock music elements, a marked departure from the doo-wop sound of the Blue Belles. The album failed to catch on, as did their 1972 follow-up, Moon Shadow
. The group, however, did find success singing alongside Laura Nyro on her acclaimed album, Gonna Take a Miracle
. The group would tour with Nyro off and on for the next couple of years.In 1973 Wickham had the group signed to RCA Records, in Chicago where they recorded the Pressure Cookin'
album. In the middle of recording, LaBelle gave birth to her only child, Zuri. While promoting the album opening for The Rolling Stones, Wickham advised the group to adapt the same flamboyant costumes of rock artists such as T. Rex, Elton John, and David Bowie. Soon, their own stage entrances started to take a life on its own, at one point the group members flew into the concert stage, while singing. Despite this change in direction, their third album failed to become a success. However, a scout for Epic Records advised the group to sign with them in 1974 at the end of the Rolling Stones tour.Later that year, Labelle issued their most acclaimed album, Nightbirds
. In October 1974, the group made history by becoming the first pop group to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House. In late December, Epic issued the single "Lady Marmalade". Within six months, the record became a smash hit and reached number 1 on the Billboard
Hot 100, the group's first to do so. This helped their album sell over a million copies. Their fame was so massive during this time that they made the cover of Rolling Stone
magazine later in 1975.Later in 1975, the group issued their follow-up, Phoenix
, which did not quite catch on as fast though it was critically raved. They had a little more success with the Chameleon
album in 1976, with the songs "Get You Somebody New" and "Isn't It A Shame"; the latter song Patti LaBelle would say was "the last record we ever did together". Despite her success, LaBelle was not pleased at the group's direction and by late 1976, neither LaBelle, Dash, nor Hendryx could agree on a musical direction. Following a concert in Baltimore in December 1976, LaBelle advised the others to break up.
LaBelle released her self-titled album in 1977 on Epic. The record was a critical success, with the highlights being the dance singles "Joy To Have Your Love" and "Dan Swit Me", and the pop-R&B ballad "You Are My Friend", a song she and her husband co-wrote. Her subsequent follow-ups, however, 1978's Tasty
, 1979's It's Alright with Me
, and 1980s Released
, failed to be as successful. Though well-established in some circles, LaBelle never followed her live performance success with hit records, which was often the case with the Bluebelles. In 1981, she was switched to the CBS subsidiary, Philadelphia International Records, issuing the album The Spirit's In It
.LaBelle found success outside music, performing in the Broadway revival of Your Arms Too Short to Box with God
, with Al Green. However, the play was criticized for what critics felt was vocal showboating by Green and LaBelle, criticism that LaBelle did not take lightly. In 1982 she recorded the Grover Washington ballad "The Best Is Yet To Come", which led to her first top-20 R&B hit and her first Grammy nomination in the spring of 1983. Later that year, LaBelle appeared in the PBS-produced play Working
. In October 1983, the mid-tempo love song "If Only You Knew" was released. The parent album, I'm In Love Again
, was released the following month. In January 1984, "If Only You Knew" reached number-one on the Hot R&B Singles chart, where it stayed for four weeks. The song became LaBelle's first charted hit on the Billboard
Hot 100 as a solo artist, reaching the lower regions of the top fifty, peaking at number 46. The success of that single and its similar-sounding follow-up, "Love, Need and Want You", which reached number 10 on the R&B chart, helped I'm in Love Again
reach gold in the United States.Later in 1984, LaBelle appeared in her first film, A Soldier's Story
. In the fall of 1984, LaBelle recorded the songs, "New Attitude" and "Stir It Up", later issued for the soundtrack of Beverly Hills Cop
, released in December 1984. The soundtrack became a hit, thanks to the releases of "New Attitude" and "Stir It Up". The former single reached as high as number 17 on the Hot 100 and was number 1 on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart in the spring of 1985, introducing LaBelle to pop audiences. In 1985 LaBelle left Philadelphia International signing a lucrative contract with MCA. PIR issued the final contractual LaBelle album, Patti
. The album was not successful.LaBelle garnered headlines in 1985 for her showstopping performances, first at Motown Returns to the Apollo
where she opened the show with Joe Cocker singing You Are So Beautiful in which she received very high praise. In the same show she engaged in the so-called "infamous mic toss" between her and Diana Ross during the show's finale, to the Foreigner song, "I Want to Know What Love Is". LaBelle later alleged that Ross grabbed the microphone away from LaBelle following her taking over the lead, though someone else gave LaBelle another microphone where she finished singing. That same year, LaBelle was accused again of showboating, after singing in the finale of Live Aid to "We Are the World" so loud that she sounded as the only audible singer. Due to this press, she was given her own television special later that fall. Because of these performances, Patti gained even more mainstream popularity culminating in the release of LaBelle's eighth album, 1986's Winner in You
, which peaked at number 1 on the Billboard 200 on the strength of the pop hit "On My Own", a duet with singer Michael McDonald. The song became LaBelle's first number-1 hit since "Lady Marmalade" and her highest-selling album. Winner in You
eventually sold a million copies, becoming platinum. It remains her best-selling album. LaBelle took a break in 1988, re-emerging with Be Yourself
, in 1989. The album went gold thanks to LaBelle's soft rock ballad, "If You Asked Me To", which also was the song for the final credits in the James Bond film Licence to Kill
. In 1989 LaBelle also sang the role of "The Acid Queen" in The Who's star-studded performance of TOMMY
in Los Angeles.Her 1991 album, Burnin'
, resulted in LaBelle's first Grammy win in 1992 for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, an honor she shared with noted singer Lisa Fischer. This was the first instance of a 'tie' in Grammy history and caused controversy. Burnin'
spawned three top ten hits on Billboard's R&B chart and also went on to sell half a million copies, becoming her third gold album. Her 1994 album, Gems
and 1997 follow-up, Flame
, also were certified gold and LaBelle's 1990s singles, "The Right Kinda Lover" and "When You Talk About Love" hit number 1 on the dance charts. She won a second Grammy in 1998 for her live album, One Night Only!
Following the announcement of the end of her marriage to her husband, Armstead Edwards, who also dismissed himself as LaBelle's manager after more than 20 years, LaBelle released the ballad-heavy When A Woman Loves
album in 2000. She would not release another album until, after signing with the Def Jam Records imprint, Def Soul Classics, she released Timeless Journey
, in 2004. The album became her highest-charted album in eighteen years. In 2005 a follow-up album, Classic Moments
, was released. Shortly after, LaBelle left Def Jam Records in 2006 over a public dispute with Antonio "L.A." Reid. She released her first gospel album, The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle
on the Bungalo label, the album later peaking at number 1 on Billboard
's gospel album chart. She returned to Def Jam in 2007 and released her second holiday album, Miss Patti's Christmas
. As of 2011, LaBelle has yet to release a new solo album. In 2008, LaBelle briefly reunited with Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash as Labelle on the group's first new album in over thirty years, Back to Now
.Following her roles in A Soldier's Story
, LaBelle won a recurring role as Kadeem Hardison's mother on the hit show, A Different World
. In 1992 following her success on the sitcom and responding to the success of rapper Will Smith's Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
, LaBelle starred in her own sitcom, Out All Night
. The show was cancelled after only 19 episodes. In 1993 she earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and two years afterwards, performed at the Super Bowl half-time show. For a period, LaBelle's theme song for The Oprah Winfrey Show
, entitled "Get With the Program", proved to be popular along with its catchphrase. In 2002, LaBelle appears in the 44th Grammy Awards ceremony in a performance of the new version of "Lady Marmalade", with Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa and Pink. In 2003, LaBelle participates in the tribute organized by the Spanish Television network Telemundo to the Cuban singer and legend of the Latin music Celia Cruz, singing with Gloria Estefan. In 2003 she starred in her own lifestyle show, Livin' It Up With Patti LaBelle
, which aired for three years on the TV-One channel. In 1996 LaBelle issued her autobiography, Don't Block the Blessings
. She released her first of five cookbooks in 1997, and in 2006, released the book Patti's Pearls
. In addition, LaBelle began to sell collections of spices, lipstick and even wigs on her website. Her wig collection, Especially Yours
, was sold for some time but has since stopped.
On September 14, 2010, LaBelle made a return two decades after her last Broadway performance to star in the award-winning musical Fela!
about Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. LaBelle replaced Tony Award-nominee Lillias White as Fela's mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, and remained with the production through the end of its run on January 2, 2011. On May 23, 2011, LaBelle appeared on "Oprah's Farewell Spectacular, Part 1" the first show in a series of three shows constituting the finale of The Oprah Winfrey Show
, singing "Over the Rainbow" with Josh Groban. LaBelle was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BET Awards on June 26, 2011.She performed for President Barack Obama at the 9/11 tribute, singing "Two Steps Away". She received a standing ovation, after she walked away from the microphone and continued to be heard. On December 21, 2011, she appeared on an episode of the Bravo television series Top Chef
, surprising the ten remaining chefs after their "Quickfire" challenge. A shortened version of "Lady Marmalade" was in the broadcast, which was filmed in Austin, Texas. She then served as a guest judge on the episode. On January 2, 2012, she performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the NHL Winter Classic between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park. In February 2012, LaBelle honored Mariah Carey singing Carey's hit single "Hero" at that year's BET Honors.In August 2013 the singer performed the socially conscious track What Can I Do For You
on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno which included the high profiled guest Barack Obama.
A longtime resident of Philadelphia, LaBelle currently lives in the Philadelphia suburb, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. In 1969, she married Armstead Edwards. In July 1973, their first and only child, Zuri Kye Edwards, was born. In the late 1970s, Labelle and Edwards adopted two teenage boys, Stanley and Dodd, the children of their next-door neighbor, after their mother died of cancer. Following the death of her youngest sister Jackie Padgett, the couple raised Padgett's teenage children. Following the disbanding of the group Labelle in 1976, Edwards, who was a schoolteacher, took over as his wife's manager. In 2000, the couple announced their separation. Their divorce was finalized in 2003. LaBelle's son Zuri has since taken over as her manager.Her youngest sister Jackie Padgett became president of her sister's fan club in the early 1980s. When Jackie later died of lung cancer in 1989, Patti dedicated her 1991 album, Burnin'
, to Jackie and filmed the video for "If You Asked Me To" a day after her funeral. Her two other sisters, Vivian and Barbara predeceased Jackie. LaBelle was diagnosed with diabetes in 1995. Prior to her marriage to Edwards, LaBelle was once engaged to The Temptations singer Otis Williams, breaking it off owing to conflicting schedules.In June 2011, a West Point cadet filed a civil suit against LaBelle after he was allegedly assaulted by her bodyguards at Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston, in March. Houston police department is reviewing the conduct of officers responding to the incident after they posed for photographs with the singer, and have also filed assault charges against members of her entourage and warrants were issued. In August 2011, the cadet, who had initially been suspended from West Point for his involvement in the altercation, was allowed back in West Point. LaBelle has countersued, alleging the cadet was drunk and using racial slurs.In November 2011, LaBelle was sued by a woman named Roseanna Monk, from New York, after LaBelle allegedly hurled insults at her for allowing her then 18-month-old daughter to walk steps away from her at an apartment lobby that LaBelle was renting during her appearance on Fela!
in November 2010. According to the lawsuit, after Monk reportedly told LaBelle it was none of her business as to why the child was "scampering", she allegedly threw water at Monk and her child.
As lead singer of the idiosyncratic group Labelle, Patti LaBelle has been called one of the pioneers of the disco movement due to singles such as "Lady Marmalade" and "Messin' With My Mind". In turn, "Lady Marmalade" has been also called one of the first mainstream disco hits (Jones and Kantonen, 1999). Rolling Stones
Magazine includes LaBelle in its 100 Greatest Singers List, citing her as an influencing factor to "generations of soul singers" including Luther Vandross, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige and Christina Aguilera. Other singers who have been inspired by Patti LaBelle include Ashford & Simpson, Celine Dion, Donna Summer, Jennifer Hudson, Jody Watley, Macy Gray, Mariah Carey, Martha Wash, Paula Abdul, Fantasia Barrino, Whitney Houston, and Ariana Grande as well as Oleta Adams, and Regina Belle.