Patti LaBelle is a Grammy-nominated singer, actress, and author who established a career in the entertainment industry. Throughout her five-decade career in the music industry, she achieved numerous chart-topping hits both as a member of the band Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles and as a solo artist. Unlike many other gifted musicians and singers, however, LaBelle did not have an easy start. Indeed, her career began on a shaky note, with the majority of her albums and singles failing to impress both the public and critics. Lady Marmalade was the song that cemented her reputation as a classic singer. On the Billboard Hot 100, the song peaked at number one. After years of being a member of a band, she disbanded in 1977 to pursue a solo career. She released several albums, each of which showcased her prodigious talent and abilities and contributed to her total record sales of over 50 million records. She has been inducted into numerous Halls of Fame for her outstanding musical abilities, including the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Apollo Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.
Childhood & Adolescence
Patti LaBelle was born Patricia Louise Holte in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Henry and Bertha Holte. While her father worked for the railroad and sang in lounges, her mother was a housewife. She was the couple’s third daughter.
Following her parents’ divorce, she was raised solely by her mother. She was reserved and coy as a child but became close friends with Claudette Grant, whom her mother adopted.
With a soulful voice, she was an active member of the church choir group. She sang her first solo two years later, at the age of twelve, at the Beulah Baptist Church.
She did not listen exclusively to gospel music, but also to jazz, rhythm and blues. Patsy was her nickname as she entered adolescence.
She realized her dream of forming a girl group in 1958, when she formed The Ordettes with three friends. Begun informally, the group was reduced to two members when two of its members voluntarily left. However, when singers Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash joined The Ordettes, the situation quickly changed.
Cindy Birdsong joined The Ordettes in 1961. Bernard Montague, the renowned music magnate, became their manager. The upward trajectory of the group’s career appeared promising as it gained widespread fame and reputation in and around Philadelphia.
The Ordettes were introduced to Harold Robinson, President of Newtown Records. Robinson initially passed on the group due to their unpretentious appearance and plain Jane style, but signed them after hearing her voice. He renamed the group The Blue Belles.
Career of Patti
‘I Sold My Heart to the Junkman’ was the Blue Belles’ first chart-topping single. Though the song peaked at number twenty on the Billboard Hot 100, the song’s credit caused controversy.
Following the success of its first song, the group was unable to replicate it and survived solely through touring. To add insult to injury, Robinson was sued for using the Blue Belles name, which was previously owned by another group.
In 1963, Robinson changed her name to Patti LaBelle and the group’s name to ‘Patti La Belle and Her Blue Belles’ due to legal complications. The following year, the group opted out of their contract with Newtown in favor of Cameo-Parkway Records.
The group recorded their first single, ‘Down the Aisle,’ for Cameo-Parkway Records, which became a huge hit. The song reached the top 40. It was followed by two additional chart-topping singles, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘Danny Boy.
They left Cameo-Parkway Records in 1965 to sign a one-year deal with Atlantic Records. The group released their debut studio album, ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ in 1966 while signed to Atlantic Records. The album was a moderate success.
The group released their second studio album, ‘Dreamer,’ in 1966. This album, too, did not reach its peak and remained a middle-of-the-road seller. Additionally, Cindy Birdsong left the group, leaving Florence Ballard to fill the vacated seat.
After Atlantic Records terminated their contract and manager Bernard Montague resigned, the group found a new manager in Vicki Wickham, who invited them to perform in London. Wickham’s advice, on the other hand, did not sit well with her and resulted in musical disagreements.
When the group returned to the United States in 1970, they changed their name to Labelle and signed a record deal with Track Records. They released their debut album, Labelle, the following year.
Despite being a departure from its predecessor and venturing into the genre of soul music with hard rock elements, Labelle, like its follow-up Moon Shadow, failed to make an impact.
They signed with RCA Records in 1973 and released the album ‘Pressure Cookin’. The same thing, however, becomes a success.
They signed a deal with Epic Records in 1974. The following year, they released their most critically acclaimed album, ‘Nightbirds’. The album was a critical and commercial success, as was its lead single, ‘Lady Marmalade,’ which peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Additionally, they became the first pop group to perform at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House.
Phoenix, their follow-up album, was released in 1975. Though the album did not achieve the same level of success as ‘Nightbirds,’ it received favorable reviews.
They released the album ‘Chameleon’ in 1976, which included the singles ‘Get You Someone New’ and ‘Isn’t It A Shame’. While the group performed admirably, its musical direction did not appeal to everyone, ultimately leading to the group’s disbandment in December 1976.
In 1977, she struck out on her own and released the self-titled ‘LaBelle’ album on Epic Records. The album received widespread critical acclaim thanks to the success of the singles ‘Joy To Have Your Love,’ ‘Dan Swit Me,’ and ‘You Are My Friend.
Following the success of her debut album, she was unable to replicate it, and her subsequent albums, ‘Tasty,’ ‘It’s Alright with Me,’ and ‘Released,’ all failed to chart. She signed a recording contract with Philadelphia International Records in 1981 and released the album ‘The Spirit’s In It’.
She then transitioned away from music, appearing in a Broadway revival and recording the ballad ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’. The ballad brought her considerable fame and fortune. Following this, she worked in the play ‘Working’ in 1983.
In 1983, she released the love song ‘If Only God Knew,’ followed by the album ‘I’m In Love Again’ the following year. The album was her first to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 46. The album went on to achieve gold certification in the United States.
In 1984, she made her acting debut in the film ‘A Soldier’s Story’. She then released the singles ‘New Attitude’ and ‘Stir It Up’. Later that year, she signed with MCA and released the album ‘Patti’.
In 1986, she released her follow-up album, ‘Winner in You.’ The album was a smash hit, reaching number one on the Billboard 200 and topping the charts with its lead single, ‘On My Own.’ The album went on to become her best-selling, earning platinum certification.
Her 1991 debut album, ‘Burnin’, earned her her first Grammy nomination. It produced ten chart-topping singles and became her third gold album, selling half a million copies. With the release of the live album ‘One Night Only!’ in 1998, she replicated the success of her 1998 Grammy award.
She then released the albums ‘When A Woman Loves’ and ‘Timeless Journey’ in the following years. The latter album debuted at number one for the first time in eighteen years.
In 2006, she released ‘The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle’, her first gospel album. Billboard’s gospel album chart peaked at number one with this release. In a nutshell, she reformed Labelle with Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash for the group’s first new album in three decades, ‘Back to Now.’
Meanwhile, in addition to releasing music albums, she appeared in several sitcoms and performed in several shows. She made a triumphant return to Broadway with the Tony Award-winning musical ‘Fela!’
Additionally, she sang ‘Two Steps Away’ for President Barack Obama during the 9/11 tribute. In August 2013, she appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno’s ‘What Can I Do For You’ segment, which featured high-profile guest Barack Obama.
Awards and Accomplishments
In 1991 and 1998, she won the Grammy Award for Traditional R&B Vocal Performance and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
She is a Grammy Hall of Fame inductee, a Legends Walk of Fame inductee, and a BET Walk of Fame inductee. She has won numerous awards in a variety of categories, including Lifetime Achievement, Best Soul/R&B Artist, and Gospel Artist. She even received recognition for her acting abilities.
Personal History and Legacies
In 1969, she married Armstead Edwards. The couple was fortunate to have a child. They raised two boys and adopted two boys. The couple, however, divorced in 2003.
Estimated Net Worth
Patti LaBelle is a multi-talented singer, actress, and entrepreneur with a net worth of $60 million. Patti LaBelle initially gained prominence as a member of the group Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles.
She then achieved phenomenal success as a solo artist and as an actress in feature films and television shows.
This well-known African-American singer and actress is affectionately referred to as the “Godmother of Soul.”