Patti LaBelle has been called the “High Priestess of Good Vibrations”, and the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Soul”. Despite being a global music icon and a performer who has performed in front of millions of people, Patti LaBelle is known for being an introvert in her personal life. Patti LaBelle has been performing music since her teenage years and has been a popular figure since that time. Patti LaBelle is a true legend in her field. Let’s take a look at some interesting facts about the Godmother of Soul:
18 Truly Shocking Things About Patti LaBelle
1. She is an introvert in real life:
Despite her musical prowess, LaBelle admits she is naturally introverted, but shifts her persona the moment she’s in the spotlight. “Once I pick up the microphone and see the lights and the crowd, Priscilla comes out,” she says. “I call her Priscilla — my little bad Patti. When Priscilla comes out, she takes over, but when Priscilla leaves the stage, Patti is back and I’m a lot more quiet and shy.”
That’s how the two sided personality of Patti Labelle: the cozy homemaker and the complete showstopper blends in perfect harmony. With an electrifying voice that seems to defy human boundaries, LaBelle said: “I could never give up performing,”… “If I didn’t sing, I’d be a crazy woman. Onstage is the one place where I can open up, vent my hostility, cry out my pain. And that has freed me to be a better wife and mother.”
It’s this surprisingly self-effacing attitude that has led to several missed opportunities over the years, including the film role of Shug Avery in “The Color Purple” and the lead in Broadway’s current production of “Hello, Dolly!”
“I’m the turn-down queen! Deborah Cox always thanks me for her career. Montell Jordan wrote ‘Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here’ for me, but I hated it. It just didn’t have something. She got it and whenever we see each other, she thanks me for giving her the hit.”
Four years ago, producers of “Hello, Dolly!” approached LaBelle for the recent revival’s lead role. “That was something else I said no to. Now [Bette Midler] is doing it. I’m going to check it out and I think I might do it when she leaves — I mean, I would like to.”
A lesson learnt hard, Ms. Patti now says: “There’s nothing you should say no to. Try it all and if you fail, you did try.”
2. She can’t drive to save her life:
While appearing on Busy Philipps’ late night show, Busy Tonight, on Thursday, Jan. 10, the host asked the “Lady Marmalade” songstress if she sings in the car — and Patti had quite the unexpected answer!
“I can’t drive,” the 74-year-old said, to Busy’s complete surprise. “You can’t drive?!” Busy, 39, exclaimed. “I don’t know a car key from a door key,” Patti unapologetically said. If you’re wondering how the heck the singer has gotten around all these years, the answer is simple: Patti said she’ll take a ride from “anybody!”
Ms. Patti LaBelle was even once gifted a car by a famous friend who had no idea she couldn’t operate a vehicle. “Many years ago, Richard Pryor — we were on tour together and he didn’t think he was paying me enough money,” Patti recalled to Busy. “So he said, ‘I have to give you things.’ So he gave me a sauna, he sent it to Philadelphia. A sauna and diamond bracelets. And then he had me go and pick out a car for his aunt in Detroit.”
Patti continued, “And so I said, ‘What color is her hair?’ and he said gray. And I said, ‘This beautiful blue-grey [car] would be fabulous for her.’ And he said, ‘OK, now sit in the car and do me a favor… turn on the ignition.’ And I said, ‘What’s the ignition?’ So he said, ‘just try,’ so he [bought] it and he goes, ‘This is your car.’ I said, ‘Thank you, Richard, I can’t drive.’” How ironic that Patti LaBelle pulled such a prank on one of the greatest stand up comedians of this world.
3. She’s not tech at all:
Patti LaBelle isn’t on any social media sites and isn’t starting anytime soon.
“It’s hard to talk on people’s cell phones – I don’t care for other people’s germs. I still haven’t got a cellphone. I’m talking to you on my landline – it’s as old as me. I’m old-school, I don’t need that. I haven’t got a computer, either. I like a lot of privacy. When I’m at home, I want to be at home alone”.
4. When she recorded Lady Marmalade she didn’t know what it was about:
Patti LaBelle started singing in pop groups as a teenager. As the leader of Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells (known briefly as the Blue Belles in the early 1960s), she rose to some notoriety with a few hit singles. That group was renamed LaBelle in 1971, and with flashy outfits and wild hairdos, its three members soared to fame with the racy single “Lady Marmalade,” which featured LaBelle’s trademark screams and lung-bursting notes. After the trio’s breakup, LaBelle launched her own solo career, which has turned her into a musical superstar but her start to the music industry went something like this:
“We really didn’t know at first. We thought it was a woman just walking down the street – it didn’t register that it might be about something else. We were very innocent, and I had no clue. I was very naive. Then we had some controversy about a nun being upset about the song, and we found out. I felt stupid … no, not stupid but naive. I didn’t know we were singing about a lady of the evening. Young girls today are so well versed because of the internet, so they’d never not realise, but it was different then. Thank God we did the song, anyway!”
5. Patti LaBelle was once sued for throwing water at baby, cursing at NYC mom:
Patti LaBelle was sued over a parenting disagreement with a New York City mother. According to The Associated Press, a lawsuit filed Monday accuses the singer of cursing at the woman and her 18-month-old daughter, and even threw half a bottle of water at the baby.
6. She loves to be called Ms Patti:
“Patti is fine, but a lot of people call me Ms Patti to show respect. I love it when they call me that, but they also call me Mom, Auntie, Mother … a lot of fans think of me as their mother, which I see as a big compliment.”
7. She danced to In Da Club on Dancing with the Stars:
“I sure did. I was gangsta not knowing I was going to be gangsta. I didn’t even know I would do those gang moves, but when I heard the music I was on. They call me OG – a lot of my band call me that – and I am the original gangsta.”
Patti LaBelle was on Dancing with the Stars, but unlike Hannah Brown who was declared a winner, Patti was eliminated shortly. One of the songs she chose was In Da Club by 50 Cent. They met about seven years ago at his home. He was giving a show for his grandparents, and they love Patti LaBelle. Patti said that he was very nice. He tweeted positive tweets about it.
8. She’s survived a turbulent family life:
It’s terribly tragic that a person as kind and generous as Patti LaBelle has had to experience such an unnecessary amount of loss in her life.
Born Patricia Louise Holte, October 4, 1944, in Philadelphia, PA she is the daughter of Henry Holte who married Armstead Edwards. Not only did Patti lose her mother to diabetes, she lost her along with all three of her sisters to cancer and her father to emphysema in less than a decade.
The video for her song If You Asked Me To was filmed the day she buried her youngest sister Jackie Padgett, and the emotion is heartbreakingly real. But not all of her personal life is marred with tragedy. Along with her biological son, she cares for her neighbor’s two children after they lost their mother to pneumonia, and adopted her sister Jackie’s two children after her death.
9. She sang at the White House for Barack Obama:
Barack Obama loved to hear the fine voice of Ms Patti and she agreed by saying:
I think he was very happy to be in the room with all the talented women there. And he was sitting next to a very powerful woman.
10. The concept of her name:
Patti Labelle’s iconic name was devised by her by record executive Harold Robinson after hearing her and her first group, the Ordettes/Blue Belles, audition for a label signing and finding Patti: “Too dark and too plain.” He was also initially unimpressed by her but then liked her so much that he thought of the name LaBelle which translates to “the beautiful” in French. Her real name is Patricia Louise Holt-Edwards.
Ms Patti initially sang in the band the Ordettes as a teenager which later formed the group the Blue Belles, later called Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells, in the early 1960s. Then renamed group LaBelle, 1971. They went on to record the hit single “Lady Marmalade” and disbanded in 1976, and began a solo recording career.
11. Her group Labelle became the first black vocal group to be on the cover of Rolling Stone:
“We were groundbreaking, and it was an honour. It was showing other black women that they could do it. But we weren’t trying to break a record, we were just being Labelle. I don’t think at the time we thought it was special – we thought we were worthy of the cover, and it was something we should have had and we deserved it. But only when you look back do you realise how groundbreaking it was. Young black female groups gave us props – Destiny’s Child did, TLC complimented us; they said Labelle was one of the reasons they formed their groups.”
LaBelle grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was part of the group the Ordettes while still a teenager. She formed Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells in 1961 with Nona Hendryx, Sarah Dash, and Cindy Birdsong (Birdsong left in 1967 to join the Supremes). The group had several hit singles, including “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman,” 1962, “Danny Boy,” 1964, and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” 1964. They achieved some level of success, but overall, they lacked the kind of gimmicky trademark they needed to distinguish them from the multitude of female groups that flourished in the sixties.
That was to change in 1970 when an Englishwoman named Vicki Wickham took over management of the group and suggested they change their name to LaBelle. The adventurous woman encouraged them to don wild costumes, adopt extreme hairstyles, and put on outrageous stage shows. The group soon earned a cult following and had the distinction of being the first black band to play at the Metropolitan Opera House. It was in this venue that they introduced their only number one hit, “Lady Marmalade,” a rousing screamer about a New Orleans hooker. One of LaBelle’s more outrageous tactics while touring with this group was to be lowered on guy wires to the stage for her opening.
Eventually, however, the group’s artistic differences caused them to split. LaBelle insisted that it was an amicable break. “Each of us had these individual ideas about how things should go, and we were no longer jelling as a group,” she confessed in Ebony. “If we had tried to stay together we would have been constantly clashing, and the audience would have noticed it. It was better for us… to break up the group while it was still popular.” In 1976, the three women ended their 16-year-long collaboration.
Following the breakup, LaBelle was riddled with self-doubt. Although she wanted a solo career, she didn’t know whether it was in the stars. “I sat around thinking about all those tales about ‘three strikes and you’re out’ and ‘the third time’s the charm’ and, you know, all the negative things,” she told Ebony. Although this lack of self-confidence didn’t show in her disarming stage performances, it began to weigh her down.
12. Patti LaBelle has a range of sauces and cookbooks such as LaBelle Cuisine:
Not only was there a moment in time in 2016 where Walmart was selling one of her sweet potato pies every second, she now has a line of “fancy cakes,” all of which are named after one of her hit songs. Now that’s musical success you can taste! Also, she’s got her own Cooking Channel show, Patti LaBelle’s Place.
13. She’s truly timeless:
As said above, LaBelle’s work has been lauded by millions, and has transcended its original soul audience; crossing over into the popular mainstream scene very early on.
She sang the universally recognized “Lady Marmalade” with the Bluebelles, and after going solo went on to sing acclaimed and award-winning songs like “You Are My Friend,” “If Only You Knew,” “On My Own” — not to mention a host of classics covered over the years. It seems like she’s never made a bad album, and there’s at least one ultra-successful and tirelessly soulful song on every single release.
14. She’s an advocate for numerous causes:
LaBelle also is known to be a very selfless person, and has involved herself in multiple initiatives over the years. These include everything from adoption rights to education for black college students. The video above features LaBelle taking John Lennon’s “Imagine” to church at the Live Aid concert to raise money for the famine in Ethiopia.
This was something of a “comeback” performance, introducing the Godmother to a whole new (i.e. MTV) generation of fans.
After she lost her mother to diabetes and LaBelle herself was diagnosed with it, she became a spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association. She also was an early advocate for AIDS awareness — long before it was a popular thing to do via little red ribbons at televised awards shows.
15. She went viral with “Where My Background Singers?”:
Watch for yourself, and try not to laugh too hard.
In what can probably be called one of the strangest musical performances in history, Patti LaBelle was set to sing Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” for the 1996 National Tree Lighting Ceremony.
During the annual event enjoyed by millions of Americans, Patti LaBelle took the stage to perform but even before she started, the odds were stacked against her. From a badly done introduction, to a cue card man paying zero attention, all the way to the disappearance of her backup singers, LaBelle was having none of it, and she wasn’t afraid of letting the whole country know how fed up she was.
But this is THE Patti LaBelle so she belted out a strong opening note. Sadly, it was all downhill from there. She seemed a bit unsure but made it through as she sang the first line, “Hang all the mistletoe, I’m gonna get to know you better.
16. She’s an experienced actress:
Speaking of television, LaBelle has had her fair share of TV and film roles since her appearance in A Soldier’s Story back in the 80s.
Labelle has played a number of characters, including a number of cameos as herself. Some more recent roles include Dora Brown in American Horror Story and Gloria Thomas in Daytime Divas. LaBelle was also taking on different roles on the stage, screen, and television. In 1982 she starred in the Broadway hit Your Arms Too Short to Box With God. A television special and roles in the feature film A Soldier’s Story and the hit series A Different World. By 1992, she was cast as a club owner/landlady in her own television series, Up All Night. The singer continued to be known for her energetic concerts, which some likened to a revival meeting. And her wild hairdos were back, this time with an angular, lacquered, wigged-out look.
LaBelle had another breakthrough album with Burnin’ in 1991. The pop diva used her strong, nasal-edged voice to perfection on such songs as “Feels Like Another One” and “Somebody Loves You Baby.” To her complete surprise, LaBelle captured a Grammy Award for her work on the record—her first after being in the business for over 32 years. She dedicated the award to her mother and three sisters, all of whom had passed away.
Despite her rousing onstage performances, LaBelle is an admitted homebody who is more comfortable on a stage with five hundred people than one-on-one. “Although I love my career,” LaBelle explained in Essence, “long ago I realized I couldn’t be happy if I weren’t married, if I didn’t have a man to take care of, a house to keep.” The singer is admittedly a great cook and is often seen making her own dinners in hotels while she is on the road.
17. She hadn’t met Michael McDonald before recording “On My Own”:
With a whopping 55 million views on YouTube, this song is undeniably popular. But for all of its apparent power and emotion, LaBelle and McDonald were not in the same recording studio singing their hearts out to each other. While LaBelle recorded her half of the tune in Pennsylvania, McDonald did his part in Los Angeles. The pair met for the first time on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson — after the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
18: She’s beloved by other famous artists:
As the boring, average people that we are, we can only grovel at the feet of superstars on the level of Patti LaBelle, but just about every other noteworthy musician also has an unwavering respect for her. So much so, that Mariah Carey outright asked LaBelle to be her Godmother, to which she gladly accepted! LaBelle admits that she saw something special in her, saying: “I love that voice. You don’t find many voices like that.”
Patti LaBelle is also the Godmother of Cyndi Lauper’s son Declyn, and also sang at Lauper’s wedding.