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Famous Like Me > Singer > L > Patti LaBelle

Profile of Patti LaBelle on Famous Like Me

Name: Patti LaBelle  
Also Know As: Patricia Louise Holt
Date of Birth: 24th May 1944
Place of Birth: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Profession: Singer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Patti LaBelle pays tribute to the crew of the space shuttle Columbia.

Patti LaBelle (born Patricia Louise Holt on May 24, 1944 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is a hugely successful African-American R&B/soul singer who fronted two successful groups before rising to stardom as a solo artist in the 1980s influencing a new generation of female singers. She is best known for her strong vocals and her signature high-octave vocal belting.


Early years

Born the youngest of five children including three sisters and a brother, Patti began singing at the age of 14 in church. A shy girl, Patti had a voice of a torch diva. A school teacher advised her to start a singing group.

With friend Cindy Birdsong, she formed a four-member girl group called the Ordettes in 1958. In 1959, when two of the original Ordettes left, Holt and Birdsong brought in singers Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash.

Two years passed until the girls auditioned for Blue Note Records. The president, at the time, nearly passed on the group upon hearing the lead singer was Patti, or "Patsy" as friends and family calls her, whom he had said didn't fit the traits of a traditionally beautiful lead singer. But he changed his mind when Patsy began singing. The president signed them to the label under two conditions: The Ordettes were now the Bluebelles and Patricia "Patsy" Holt would be given a new name - Patti LaBelle. For a woman that didn't have traditional beauty traits, the last name meant "beautiful" in French. The name was changed again to Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles after the manager of the group who had the same name sought to sue.

Success with The Bluebelles

In 1962, Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles scored their first Top 40 pop hit with the release of the doo-wop single, "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman". That same year, they began wowing audiences at New York's legendary Apollo theater later given them the name "The Apollo Sweethearts". Throughout the '60s, Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles were one of the hottest touring acts on the chitlin' circuit while the hits continued: in 1964, they scored again with songs like "Danny Boy" and "Down the Aisle".

In 1966, the group signed to Atlantic Records and scored what later became Patti's signature song with their version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". Around this time, LaBelle was engaged to be married to Temptations member Otis Williams, but the couple called off the engagement because of their conflicting touring schedules. The next year, LaBelle, Dash & Hendryx received a shock when Cindy Birdsong left to join The Supremes, replacing Florence Ballard. LaBelle was so infuriated by this that she refused to talk to Birdsong for the next eighteen years.


In 1970, Patti and the Bluebelles moved to England where they met promoter Vicki Wickham, formerly Janis Joplin's promoter. The next year when the girls returned to America, they came out with a different name - simply LaBelle - and a new attitude plus a new wardrobe. The former "Apollo Sweethearts" were now women. Wearing casual clothing and African adornments, Labelle often sung of racism, sexism and politics. Their sound was not taken by heart from consumers.

In 1974, however, learning of a cult following, the women changed their looks again now adorning space-like, rockish and biker uniforms, they began to sing about sex, space and outwardish things that many funk and rock bands were singing about at the time. Their following had grown so much that in October of that year, they were the first African-American contemporary act to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House. That December, they released their greatest record, "Nightbirds", featuring their breakout hit, "Lady Marmalade", which hit #1 on the Hot 100 in 1975, helping "Nightbirds" to go platinum. It was as far as they got as success couldn't ring twice.

Solo career

In 1976, the group decided to disband leaving all three singers to go into solo careers. LaBelle, now 33, released her self-titled debut in 1977. The album became an important hit for Patti at least on the R&B charts and was notable for the stand-out ballad, "You Are My Friend". Success was mostly eluding Patti until 1983 when she released her first charted hit album, "I'm In Love Again". The album featured LaBelle's first #1 R&B hit with "If Only You Knew" and a radio hit with "Love, Need & Want You". In 1984, after an eighteen-year estrangement, she reconciled with Cindy Birdsong while she was on stage in Los Angeles. By 1985, LaBelle was on her way to pop stardom after her song, "New Attitude", from the soundtrack of Beverly Hills Cop (1984), peaked at #7 on the pop charts.

By the time of her rise to pop stardom in the mid-1980s, LaBelle was now infamous for her wild hairdos, for cutting in on shows outsinging mostly everybody in ensemble closings, kicking off her shoes in a "Holy Ghost"-like rage, rolling over the floor while singing, putting the microphone stand down and then yielding it up in the air and choreographing the now-legendary "spread my wings" move that she incorporated during her show-stopping performances of "Over the Rainbow". In 1986, she released her best-selling album to date with "Winner In You". The album yielded her first solo #1, "On My Own" with pop balladeer Michael McDonald, and a Top 20 hit, "Oh People".

By the end of the 1980s, she was one of the best-selling R&B music artists of all time and after having scored a cult success with the Diane Warren ballad, "If You Asked Me To", in 1989, she entered the 1990s on a high but not without tragedy. That year, she lost her third sister to cancer. Patti's two elder sisters had similar fates, with the oldest dying in 1977 (at the height of LaBelle's success) and the second-eldest dying in 1982. Her brother, father and mother all followed suit dying around the same time making Patti the only living member of her extended family while being the mother of six kids - one born by Patti, three of one of her sisters' children and two adopted and wife of Armstead Edwards (married since 1969), who had become her manager.

In 1991, Patti released the critically-acclaimed "Burnin'" album, which helped win Patti her first Grammy Award for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance. That success continued onto subsequent albums like 1994's "Gems" (featuring the hit, "The Right Kinda Lover"), 1997's "Flame" (featuring the hit, "When You Talk About Love"), and 1998's "Live One Night Only" (which won her a second Grammy). In 1993, LaBelle became the first, and so far only, artist to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame thanks to a petition by her legion of fans.

In 2000, in a stunning move, she divorced her husband, Armstead. The same year, she released "When A Woman Loves", an album mostly of heartbroken love ballads by Diane Warren. LaBelle's popularity would be heard loud and clear on younger artists' covers of some of LaBelle's legendary songs including "Lady Marmalade" (resung by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Pink and Mya on the soundtrack of Moulin Rouge, and which became a #1 hit all over again 26 years after LaBelle's original), She also appeared , though breifly in a performance of the song at the 2002 Grammy Awards. "Love, Need & Want You" (sampled by rapper Nelly and Destiny's Child eember Kelly Rowland in their #1 hit, "Dilemma" and later by Outkast, who later featured LaBelle re-singing parts of the song on their hit, "Ghetto Musick") and "If Only You Knew" (which has been covered by a lot of R&B singers and also sampled by hip-hoppers).

On February 6, 2003, she performed "Way up There" at a memorial service in honour of the astronauts lost in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, which was held at the Washington National Cathedral and attended by Vice President Richard Cheney.

In 2004, she released "Timeless Journey", which debuted at #16, making it LaBelle's highest charted album in eighteen years and the album went gold. She scored a modest hit in 2005 with her duet with The Isley Brothers in the song "Gotta Go Solo". In the meantime, she's currently performing on tour.



  • 1963 Sweethearts of the Apollo
  • 1965 The Bluebelles on Stage
  • 1966 Over the Rainbow
  • 1967 Dreamer
  • 1975 Nightbirds (LaBelle) (#7 US)
  • 1975 Phoenix (LaBelle) (#44 US)
  • 1976 Chameleon (LaBelle) (#94 US)
  • 1977 Patti LaBelle (#62 US)
  • 1978 Tasty (#129 US)
  • 1979 It's Alright with Me (#145 US)
  • 1980 Released (#114 US)
  • 1981 The Spirit's in It (#156 US)
  • 1982 Pressure Cookin'
  • 1983 I'm in Love Again (#40 US)
  • 1985 Patti (#72 US)
  • 1986 Winner in You (#1 US, #30 UK, #29 US Dance)
  • 1989 Be Yourself (#86 US)
  • 1990 This Christmas
  • 1991 Burnin' (#71 US)
  • 1992 Live! (#135 US)
  • 1994 Gems (#48 US)
  • 1997 Flame (#39 US)
  • 1998 Live! One Night Only (#182 US)
  • 2000 When a Woman Loves (#63 US)
  • 2001 Love Songs
  • 2004 Timeless Journey (#18 US)
  • 2005 Classic Moments (#24 US)


Year Title Chart positions Album
US Hot 100 US R&B/Hip-Hop US Dance UK Singles Chart
1962 "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman" (with The Blue Belles) #15 - - - Sweethearts of the Apollo
1963 "Down the Aisle" (with The Blue Belles) #37 - - - Sweethearts of the Apollo
1964 "You'll Never Walk Alone" (with The Blue Belles) #34 - - - Sweethearts of the Apollo
1965 "Danny Boy" (with The Blue Belles) #76 - - - Sweethearts of the Apollo
1966 "All or Nothing" (with The Bluebelles) #68 - - - Over the Rainbow
1967 "Take Me for a Little While" (with The Bluebelles) #89 - - - Dreamer
1975 "Lady Marmalade" #1 - #7 #17 C'est la Vie
1975 "What Can I Do for You?" #48 - #7 - C'est la Vie
1975 "Messin' With My Mind" - - #8 - C'est la Vie
1977 "Dan Swit Me" - - #29 - Patti LaBelle
1979 "Music Is My Way of Life" - - #10 - It's Alright With Me
1980 "Release (The Tension)" - - #48 - Released
1981 "The Spirit's in It" - - #49 - The Spirit's in It
1983 "I'll Never, Never Give Up" - - #57 - I'm in Love Again
1984 "If Only You Knew" #46 - - - I'm in Love Again
1984 "Love Has Finally Come at Last" (with Bobby Womack) #88 - - - Patti
1985 "New Attitude" #17 - #1 - Patti
1985 "Stir It Up" #41 - #18 - Patti
1986 "On My Own" #1 - - #2 Winner in You
1986 "Oh, People" #29 - - #26 Winner in You
1987 "Something Special (Is Gonna Happen Tonight)" - - #10 - Winner in You
1989 "If You Asked Me To" #79 - - - Be Yourself
1991 "Feels Like Another One" - - #17 - Burnin'
1994 "The Right Kind of Lover" - - #1 - Gems
1995 "Turn It Out" - - #1 -  ??
1997 "When You Talk About Love" - - #1 - Flame
1998 "Shoe Was on the Other Foot" - - #10 - Flame
2005 "Ain't No Way" (feat. Mary J. Blige) - #62 - - Classic Moments

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Patti LaBelle