If Only You Knew Patti LaBelle

written by: Hunter Christopher

A diva is someone who is a perfectionist, who does the best in her craft. So if diva means giving your best, then yes, I guess I am a diva.

Patricia Louise Holte, more commonly known as Patti LaBelle, is one of the most iconic and dynamic artists of R&B, Soul and Gospel. Miss Patti, as she likes to be called, has brought so much to the world of music. Her powerful voice, sassy personality and philanthropic tendencies are just a small portion of her influence on the music industry. She was born on May 24, 1944 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Patti LaBelle is a mother to Zuri Kye Edwards, Stacy Holte, Stanley Stocker-Edwards, William Holte and Dodde Stocker-Edwards. 

Influences and Professional Career

Similar to many artists that arose during the time of Patricia Holte, she started her musical career in church. Her first audience was Beulah Baptist Church in the 1950s, where she was given the opportunity to learn and express herself artistically. Forming vocal groups was very common during that time, so Patti teamed up with Cynthia “Cindy” Birdsong to make The Ordettes in 1959. Two years later, The Ordettes met Wynona “Nona” Hendryx and Sarah Dash and created The Bluebelles.

The Bluebelles really put themselves on the map with their third single called “Down the Aisle”. It featured the soothing and divine voices of the other Bluebelles supporting Patti as she sang the melody- hence Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. During the 70s glitter became very popular, so Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles were known for their bright and dazzling makeup and outfits. One of the then trio’s greatest hits is “Lady Marmalade” which was released in 1975. Lady Marmalade is a million-selling #1 pop and R&B song about a sex-worker in the point of view of a client, John, who does not judge her morally. Stereogum describes the song as a combination of a busy boogie piano, riotous horn riffage, swamped-out organ, fuzz-drenched guitars, gasps, whoops, and howled-out backing vocals… where disco and soul and funk and rock all intersect.” 

Even though the Bluebelles did not continue to work together, Miss Patti did. She had eight chart singles between 1977 and 1980 alone. Her solo career skyrocketed when she signed with Philadelphia International Records in 1981 and her song “If Only You Knew” was a number one R&B hit. Following this, Patti LaBelle has had a plethora of duets  and songs associated with movies such as Love Has Finally Come with Bobby Womack, On My Own with Michael McDonald, Something Special from Outrageous Fortune, and New Attitude and Stir It Up from Beverly Hills Cop.

Miss Patti has even gone on broadway! Her huge personality is apparent in all of her performances, but even more so during broadway performances. Everything is captivating, from her portrayed emotions through facial expressions to her voice in which she maintains control over at all times. The amazing control of her voice can be heard in her rendition of “Over The Rainbow”, “You Are My Friend” and even “Tears In Heaven” by Eric Clapton.

Contemporaries

Patti LaBelle’s contemporaries include Anita Baker, Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, Luther Vandross, Phyllis Hyman, Teddy Pendergrass , The Persuasions and Tina Turner.

Discography

Sweethearts of the Apollo (1963)

The Bluebelles on Stage (1965)

Over the Rainbow (1966)

Dreamer (1967)

Labelle (1971)

Moon Shadow (1972)

Nightbirds (1975)

Patti LaBelle (1977)

Tasty (1978)

It’s Alright With Me (1979)

Released (1980)

The Spirit’s in It (1981)

Pressure Cookin’ (1982)

I’m in Love Again (1983)

Patti (1985)

Winner in You (1986)

Be Yourself (1989)

This Christmas (1990)

Christmas with Patti LaBelle & the Blue Belles (1991)

Burnin’ (1991)

Wishing You a Merry Christmas (1991)

Live! (1992)

Gems (1994)

Patti LaBelle & the Blue Belles (1995)

Our Christmas Songbook (1995)

Flame (1997)

Live! One Night Only (1998)

When a Woman Loves (2000)

Timeless Journey (2004)

Classic Moments (2005)

The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle (2006)

Miss Patti’s Christmas (2007)

Bel Hommage (2017)

Home for the Holidays (2017)

Click here to learn more about her Singles and EPs.

Awards

Patti LaBelle has been nominated for over 10 Grammy and has won two Grammys. In 1991 she won Best Female R&B Performance with her album “Burnin’.” In 1998, she got the Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance with her album “Live! One Night Only.” She is also the 2008 We Are Family Humanitarian Award Honoree.

Social Involvement

When I look into the crowd, I see young and old, black and white - it's amazing that I'm able to connect with so many different kinds of people.

Patti LaBelle is a woman of many talents and interests. Aside from her great success in the music industry, she has established her own TV show, sold her own line of products and most importantly she is a philanthropist. Patti LaBelle released her first episode of “Living It Up with Patti LaBelle” in April of 2005. The show offered a behind-the-scenes look on the newest trends, clothing, food, health, jewelry, etc. She also put out both a line of wigs “The Patti LaBelle Collection” as well as a line of products such as hot sauces, cookbooks, and instructional cooking videos on DVD. 

In addition to being a spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association, according to the We Are Family Foundation, “She [Patti LaBelle] remains an advocate for adoption, foster care, Big Sisters and the United Negro College Fund, among many other initiatives.

Patti LaBelle is clearly a woman who loves to connect with people. We can see this even in her third book, Patti’s Pearls. This book is a collection of anecdotes and wise sayings from her family and friends. Some quotes from this book include “If you know God, yo know peace” and “The only time you run out of chances is when you stop taking them.” During an interview about this book, Miss Patti said that she found that so many people asked for her advice and she viewed this book as words of wisdom, which would be a blessing to share with others.

Iconic Moments of Patti LaBelle

People with no humor, they're outta my life.

From the moment Miss Patti walks on stage earlier than cued to when she made up her own lyrics, this entire video is hilarious.

Miss Patti reveals the conflict and drama between Diana Ross and Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles during their early performances.

On this special episode of “The Tyra Banks Show”, Patti LaBelle made an appearance during a cooking/baking segment, but during her stay she had to put another guest in her place.

Patti LaBelle talks about her diabetes and the measures she takes to maintain her health.

Patti LaBelle discussed Diana Ross’ allegation that Miss Patti “eats her eyelashes” with Arsenio Hall. 

“You have to wake up fierce honey, or don’t wake up at all.”

Performances and Songs by Patti LaBelle

Patricia Louise Holte, Patti LaBelle has been such an inspiration to many people. Her songs, through lyrics and voices, have touched the hearts of many. Miss Patti has added to the development of the music industry through her formation of The Ordettes, The Bluebelles, and her transition into becoming an amazing solo artist, where she uses her powerful voice and shows her sassy personality to everyone.

Works Cited

Patricia Louise Holt-Edwards was born May 24, 1944, and is known professionally as Patti LaBelle, is an American singer, author, actress, and entrepreneur. LaBelle began her career in the early 1960s as lead singer and front woman of the vocal group, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. Following the group’s name change to Labelle in the early 1970s, they released the iconic disco song “Lady Marmalade” and the group later became the first African-American vocal group to land the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

Labelle, began her solo career in 1977 with her self-titled debut album. The album was noted for the disco hits, “Joy to Have Your Love” and “Dan Swit Me” and the gospel ballad, “You Are My Friend”.

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 Stone included LaBelle in its 100 Greatest Singers list in 2011, citing her as an influencing factor to “generations of soul singers” including Luther Vandross, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Ledisi and Christina Aguilera.

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