On this day in 1944, Patricia Louise Holt, better known as Patti LaBelle, was born in
Philadelphia. Labelle, a group she formed, had a smash hit with "Lady Marmalade" in
1975 and LaBelle has enjoyed a successful solo career since the late '70s.
LaBelle began singing in a Baptist youth choir. She formed the Ordettes with Cindy
Birdsong and the two joined Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash from the Del Capris in 1961
to become Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles. In 1962, producer Bobby Martin cut the
top-20 hit "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman," which was credited to the Blue Belles but
was later revealed to have been recorded by the Starlets.
There is no dispute, however, that Patti LaBelle and the Blue Belles had hits in the early
'60s with "Down the Aisle" and their versions of "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "Danny
Boy." The Blue Belles became a trio when Birdsong left to join the Supremes in 1967.
Under the guidance of new manager Vicki Wickham, the three became Labelle in 1971.
Four years later, Labelle had a #1 pop and R&B hit with "Lady Marmalade," a song about
a New Orleans prostitute, from their 1974 album, Nightbirds. The album also
included the singles "What Can I Do For You?" and "Are You Lonely?" Labelle caused a
sensation with their crazy, bird-like outfits, energetic concerts and multi-octave vocal
ranges. After two additional albums, Labelle disbanded.
LaBelle's self-titled solo debut (1977) featured the hits "Joy to Have Your Love" and "You
Are My Friend." In 1983, she had her first #1 R&B hit as a solo performer with "If Only You
Knew." Follow-up hits included "Love Has Finally Come at Last" (a duet with Bobby
Womack) and "Love, Need and Want You." After signing with MCA Records, LaBelle had
a top-20 pop hit with "New Attitude," from the smash Eddie Murphy film "Beverly Hills
LaBelle had a platinum-selling album with The Winner in You (1986), which
spawned a #1 duet with former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald, "On My Own." "The
song was sent to me and I did a version of it but somehow it just didn't quite work,"
LaBelle said at the time. "We were going over things I'd done and we talked about
turning it into a duet. Someone asked, 'If you could do it with anyone, who would you
sing it with?' and Michael was my first choice."
LaBelle's Be Yourself (1989) included "Yo' Mister," which was written and
produced by Prince, and "If You Asked Me," which was used in the 1989 James Bond
movie, "License To Kill." Burnin' (1991) yielded three, back-to-back top-5 R&B
hits: "Feels Like Another One," "Somebody Loves You Baby (You Know Who It Is)" and
"When You've Been Blessed (Feels Like Heaven)."
LaBelle also has served as honorary chairperson for the National Minority AIDS
Campaign. In 1996, she received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from the Berklee
School of Music and released her autobiography, "Don't Block The Blessings."
LaBelle's most recent album of new material is Flame (1997), which featured
production by Gerald Levert and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. She issued Live! One
Night Only earlier this year.
Other birthdays: Jim Fielder (Blood, Sweat and Tears), 51; Barbara K. MacDonald
(Timbuk 3), 41; Chris Lowe (Pet Shop Boys), 39; and Jon Secada, 35.