Women of R&B

Patti LaBelle

Early Life

Patti LaBelle is referred to as the Godmother of Soul. She was born Patricia Louise Holte on May 24, 1944, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. LaBelle’s father, Henry Holte, was a railroad worker and club performer, and her mother, Bertha Holte, was a housewife. At age 10, LaBelle joined the choir at a local church, Beulah Baptist Church. In 1960 LaBelle won her high school talent show at 16. She was a part of her first signing group, the Ordettes. Harold Robinson, a local record label owner, agreed to work with the group when they went to an audition. Initially, Robinson believed LaBelle was “too dark and plain”. After a performance at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, the group was known as the Apollo Sweethearts.


In 1976, after a mental breakdown from Hendrix backstage at a show in Baltimore, Maryland, the group decided to go their separate ways. In 1977, LaBelle went solo and signed to Epic Records. David Robinson produced her first solo album, Patti Labelle(1977).


LaBelle’s songs, “New Attitude” and “Stir It Up” were used in Beverly Hills Cop in 1984, which starred Eddie Murphy. In late 1984 LaBelle released “New Attitude” as a single. The song was LaBelle’s first crossover song, and it became her signature song that reached 17 on the Billboard Hot 100.


LaBelle stepped into the acting scene after she got her TV special in 1985. Afterward, in 1989 LaBelle starred in “A Different World’ with a recurring role. From there, she went on to have one season of her sitcom, “Out All Night”. 


In 2006, LaBelle released her 1st Gospel album, The Gospel According To Patti LaBelle(2006). The album peaked at #1 on Billboard’s gospel charts. LaBelle collaborated with her former group members Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash in 2008 and released Back to Now. This was the first new album the group had made in over 30 years. In 2014, LaBelle performed for Barack Obama at his “Women of Soul: In Performance at the White House” concert. LaBelle released her first jazz album Bel Hommage in 2017.


LaBelle is also well known for her cookbooks. Two of her cookbooks include LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About(1998) and Recipes for the Good Life(2008).


In 1982, “The Best Is Yet To Come” by Grover Washington that featured LaBelle earned her her first Grammy nomination. The song was also featured in the Broadway musical Your Arms Too Short to Box With Gold (1982).


In 1991 LaBelle released her album, Burnin(1991), which went gold and had three nose cut I’ve top 5 singles on the R&B charts. This album led to LaBelle’s 1st Grammy for the Best Female R&B vocal performance in 1992.


In 1993, LaBelle was presented with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.


In 1998, LaBelle released her album, Live! One Night Only(1998). This album won her second and most recent Grammy in 1998.


In 2005, World Music Awards awarded her Legend Award.


In 2009, LaBelle was inducted into the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame.


In 2011, LaBelle was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the BET Awards. 

Chaka Khan

Early Life

Born Yvette Marie Stevens but known as Chaka Khan or the Queen of Funk-Soul, is a singer and songwriter. Chaka has music in many different genres, especially R&B. She was born on March 23, 1953, in Chicago, Illinois. Charles Stevens and Sandra Coleman are her parents. Music ran in her family, Chaka’s siblings decided to go into the music industry. Yvonne, her sister, became a musician known as Tara Brown. Mark, her brother, formed a funk group, The Jamaican Boys, and was a member of Aurra. Chaka’s grandmother introduced jazz to her while she was younger, and when she became a preteen, she was a fan of R&B music. By 11, she formed a girl group called the Crystalettes, which included Taka.

Connie, Chaka’s stepmom at the time, was a supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. Connie would allow Chaka to come with her to the rallies in the late 1960s. Chaka befriended activist Fred Hampton and joined the Black Panther Party in 1967. At the age of 13, Yoruba Babe gave her the name Chaka Adunne Aduffe Hodarhi Karifi. By 1969, Chaka dropped out of high school and left the Panthers.


After dropping out of high school and leaving the Panthers, Chaka started performing in small groups around the Chicago area. This included the group Lyfe, where she met Hassan Khan, who she later married in 1970. Chaka joined the group Baby Huey and Babysitters after Huey’s death in 1970. The group split a year later. In 1972, a group called Rufus recruited Chaka, and she replaced the singer Paulette McWilliams. Ike Turner flew the group out to record at his studio in Inglewood, California. Turner wanted Chaka to become an Ikette, but she kindly declined the offer as she was happy with Rufus.


In 1978 Chaka signed with Warner Bro. Records while remaining in Rufus. In the same year, Chaka released her solo debut album. This included one of her most famous songs, “I’m Every Woman”. The album went platinum, selling over a million copies. During the 1980s and early 90s, Chaka stayed in the R&B charts with hits like “It’s My Party”, “Love You All My Lifetime”, and “What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me”.


In the 1990s, Chaka branched out to acting in London. She played Sister Carrie in the musical Mama, I Want to Sing(1992). In 2003, she released her autobiography Chaka! Through the Fire(2003). In 2004, Chaka released Classikhan(2004) with the London Symphony Orchestra. Chaka played Sofia in the musical The Color Purple(2008), based on the book by Alice Walker, in 2008.


In 1982, Chaka released two albums, Echo of An Era (1982) and Chaka Khan(1982). The album Chaka Khan won a Grammy Award for the song “Be Bop Melody”. For her cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What Goin On” in 2002, she received a Grammy for the song. 


Early Life

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles, known as Beyoncé, was born in Houston, Texas, on September 4, 1981. Beyoncé is a singer and songwriter. Her mother is Celestine “Tina” Knowles, a hairdresser and salon owner, and her father, Mathew Knowles, was a Xerox sales manager. Beyoncé’s singing talent was discovered by Darlene Johnson, her dance instructor at St. Mary’s Montessori School. At the age of seven, she won a talent show at her school. In 1990, she performed in Parker Elementary School. She was also a soloist for two years for the choir at St. John’s United Methodist Church.


These three women have broken barriers and achieved many significant accomplishments. They inspire and stand as an example for many Black women and young girls. Patti LaBelle was an inspiration for one of the greatest singers, Whitney Houston. Beyoncé is still inspiring many people of all different races and genders. All three women are multitalented and are limited to no genre, as they have music in several genres. Their music is timeless and will still be listened to in years to come.


Beyoncé won her first album when she was in Destiny’s Child. Their 1999 album The Writings On The Wall(1999) earned the group two Grammy Awards. In 2004, Beyoncé won 5 Grammy Awards. In 2010, she won 6 awards at the Grammies and the most awards won by a female in one night. In 2015, she won three Grammy Awards. Two were for “Drunk In Love”(2013), which featured Jay Z. Most recently, she won 4 Grammy Awards in 2021.


These three women have broken barriers and achieved many great accomplishments. They inspire and stand as an example for many Black women and young girls. Patti LaBelle was inspiration for one of the greatest singers, Whitney Houston. Beyoncé is still inspiring many people of all different races and genders. All three women are multitalented and are limited to no genre, as they have music in several genres. Their music is timeless and will still be listened to in years to come.

R&B Music Today

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